Jan 10 2011
Believe it or not, Spring is on its way. Chuck Tague found a great horned owl nesting last week at Merritt Island, Florida.
You’re probably thinking, “Of course owls nest in Florida in January. It’s warm there.” But these birds are more versatile than you think.
Great horned owls are the first birds to nest in Pennsylvania each year. They start courting in late fall and become really intense in December and January when you often hear them hooting in the woods and suburbs. By February they’ve chosen a nest site and the female lays her eggs.
Nest site selection is almost amusing. In Pennsylvania great horned owls often choose the tops of broken-off hollow trees but they also like stick nests, though they never build their own. Instead they usurp an old red-tailed hawk nest or, in this case, an osprey nest. No contest. The original owners are gone. Even if present they wouldn’t tangle with this lady!
And yes, that’s the female’s telltale “horns” sticking up. She does all the incubation.
Their secret to winter nesting success is that the female keeps the eggs at a constant 98.6oF even when it’s -27oF outside. She closely incubates the eggs for 30-37 days while her mate does all the hunting. He brings her food at night.
So keep your eyes and ears open for great horned owl activity this month. You might find out where they plan to nest, but don’t get too close. You won’t want to tangle with Mama!
(photo by Chuck Tague)