Great Horned Owl (Case History #1)

A long, cold night spent reuniting Great Horned Owl nestlings in nest basket in pine tree without the use of recorded calls

Two older nestling Great Horned Owls were found in a small city park in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a few days apart. The two were obviously siblings, and nest material scattered on the ground indicated that the original nest had disintegrated. A day or two after the second bird was found, Adrienne Spruill, a volunteer from Tuscaloosa, helped me organize the reuniting effort.  With the aid of the Tuscaloosa Fire Department’s “cherry picker” truck, I installed a nest basket high in a pine tree where the nest was originally located.  This case happened long before I had thought of using the recorded calls, and the owlets had been found almost a week previously.  I felt obliged to wait until I actually saw one of the adult owls at the nest.  The nest was in place by six p.m.  It was an extremely cold night, with a high wind blowing.   A street light gave enough light to allow me to watch the nest basket from my car, but with the engine off, my vigil was a chilly one. At last, just before midnight, a Great Horned Owl landed on a big branch of the pine tree, and stared in the direction of the nest basket.  After brief pause, she hopped over and bent down into the nest. A few minutes later she took off, and returned in about 20 minutes.  The light was too poor to see what she was carrying, but it was obvious that she was bringing food to her missing nestlings.  If I had been able to use recorded calls in that case, I probably would have been on my way home by seven p.m.

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