Great Horned Owl Nest Finds Home in Warren County Park

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Photo credits: Naturalists Mandy Wolski and Dave Woehr

WARREN COUNTY PARKS, OH -- Late-February: An adult Great Horned Owl and three eggs were observed in the tree hollow during the Great Backyard Bird Count. Eggs are typically incubated by the female for about four weeks, while the male hunts for food.

Late-March: Two owlets had hatched. (The third egg did not hatch.) Newly hatched owlets are nearly naked with just a little white down, and their eyes are closed. At about one week of age, the down is replaced with grayish down and around 10 days, their eyes open. The female stays on the nest brooding for around two weeks.

Early-May: First sign of fledging. One owlet was observed in a tree adjacent to the nest. This is known as “branching” and is totally natural, normal behavior. When birds fledge, they are building their wing strength while the parents are nearby, watching carefully, and are still providing food.

IF YOU SEE AN OWLET ON THE GROUND, DO NOT INTERVENE!

Although their wings have not fully developed, owlets are able to climb using their (very sharp) talons and beak. Awkward “test flights” begin at this time, and this is natural, appropriate behavior. They are developing their primary wing feathers and tail feathers, and they start to fly short distances between trees. Great horned owlets typically do not return to the nest after they fledge.

Photo credits: Naturalists Mandy Wolski and Dave Woehr

What to Expect Going Forward: The owlets will likely stay together through the summer, with the parents still nearby providing food as needed while their offspring get better at hunting on their own. As the babies mature and grow, the parents will begin roosting separately. By fall, the young will disperse to find their own territory or become “non-nesting floaters” until a suitable habitat becomes available.

Photo credits: Naturalists Mandy Wolski and Dave Woehr

We have been working together to protect the babies and educate park patrons during this amazing opportunity to observe some of Ohio’s wildlife. Please continue to be respectful of the owl family and maintain a safe distance.

If you have questions or concerns about the owls, please contact: Naturalist Shannon Pennington at 513-833-7360, Wildlife Officer Jason Keller at 513-520-9896, or RAPTOR, Inc. at 513-825-3325.

Birding etiquette dictates that we do not share the location of the nest on social media while the nest is still active. Once the owls have left the area and the fencing comes down, we will be sharing this exciting journey. If you have pictures you would like to include, please email them to Shannon.Pennington@co.warren.oh.us

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