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Baby Raptor Renesting with Great Horned Owlets

Updated on February 28, 2016
Two Great Horned Owlets
Two Great Horned Owlets | Source
Great Horned Owl with Owlet
Great Horned Owl with Owlet | Source

Raptors are fascinating birds, as most of them tend to come to life at dusk and get ready to hunt in the evening, namely owls. Owls are associated with things that go bump in the night and are considered very mysterious. Many people around the world fear them, and many people believe that they can turn their heads 360 degrees, which is not possible for any living creature. They can turn their heads almost 180 degrees in either direction, and do it so quickly, that people’s eyes play tricks on them. Appearances are deceiving in many things, and that is one of them.

As an example, I will use Great Horned Owls as the raptor in question in this article, since I have had experience with several renestings. Upon occasion, when two or three owlets are born, as they grow, the nest can’t always accommodate all of them. If there is a third, this one ends up being the runt and cannot get enough to eat. The bird is smaller, usually the last hatched, and has trouble getting enough to eat due to its size. Sadly, this bird generally perishes due to malnutrition, and is tossed out of the nest in many cases if it dies due to natural causes. It might even be pecked to death by its siblings, and they do the honors of removing it, instead of a parent.

This leaves two owlets, and the nest can generally handle these two without much of a problem. However, weather can play a factor in another one going out of the nest. Wind and heavy rains can take their toll on the integrity of the nest, which is usually sticks with soft underlining, be it grass or feathers, or any other soft material that Mother Great Horned Owl uses. The young ones can get rambunctious, as well, and one can toss the other out. The are other occasions where the host tree might be cut down for whatever reason, too, such as in the case of building a house on the property. Then all the owlets in the nest will need help.



Two Great Horned owlets
Two Great Horned owlets | Source

If this nest happens to be on someone’s property in view of the house, the residents may contact a rehabilitator to advise of the fact that an owlet is out of the nest. These nests are 30-40 feet up a tree, usually a conifer of some sort, namely a pine tree. Mother Owl is unable to return her youngster to the nest, but she might still try to feed him or her.

When a rehabilitator is contacted, either they will pick up the owlet, or it could be brought to their location by the homeowner. It is important that the owlet be given a physical by the rehabilitator to make certain that it has not suffered any injuries from the fall or that it is not dehydrated or malnourished. It might stay with the rehabilitator for a few days to ascertain its health.

Sometimes the owlet is referred to as being a “brancher,” which means that he or she could have stepped out of the nest on its own, lost its balance and fallen out of the tree. Again, the brancher should be checked by a rehabilitator.

If the nest has been destroyed, here’s where the interesting part comes in. I must caution you not to try this on your own, please, due to the safety implications. Rehabilitators are trained to climb trees and renest these baby raptors. They know how to get up the tree safely, be it with a ladder or to climb on their own, or use a ladder and climb the rest of the way. For purposes of safety, I will just give you the basic scenario on this operation and deliberately miss a few steps, so that the urge to do this won’t be so simple and inviting to those that may be on the adventurous side.

Basically, the rehabilitator will have a wicker laundry basket, pine needles, and other paraphernalia that will make an appropriate nest for an owlet or two, if need be. This makeshift nest will be safely attached to either the tree in question or another tree, if the original nest cannot be safely reached, or the tree has been destroyed where the nest was located. Then the owlet(s) will be placed in the nest with a few mice to hold them over until Mother and/or Father Owl return to resume her/his motherly/fatherly duties.

Great Horned Owl Mother to the Two Owlets
Great Horned Owl Mother to the Two Owlets | Source

Dollars to doughnuts, one or both parents have been observing you attempting to return the baby or babies. They will call for their parent(s), and the parent(s) will recognize their calls, or a tape recorder will be with the rehabilitator to call the parent(s) for the owlets.

Rehabilitators run the risk of being attacked by these Great Horned Owl adults, which is another reason that I am not giving you a play-by-play part in renesting baby raptors.

I hope that this has given you owl lovers and those that are curious about how baby raptors are returned to their parents if and when the need arises. I found that being a part of a renesting team was very rewarding. Just in case you’re curious, an owlet grows into their beaks and claws, and they know how to use them, due to the nature of the bird.

If you like to watch birds, or hope to discover the beauty of adult and young owls, I will tell you this interesting information. An owl’s nest is 30-40 feet up a pine tree. You might hear or see the owls, but you will discover what is referred to as “scat” on the trees with active nests. This is white excrement running down the tree. There will also be pellets on the ground. Owl pellets are regurgitated, and is the material that the bird is unable to digest, like bones, beaks, and feet.

Happy owl hunting! Keep your nose to the ground and your head in the air and you will one day find owl’s nests. Bring your cameras, too, and happy birding!

Great Horned Owl

How to Recognize a Great Horned Owl Call

You've heard this sound, so say, "Who Cooks for You?", and that will be the easiest way for you to remember just how the Great Horned Owl sounds.

Read About My Favorite Owls!

Great Horned Owl Adult
Great Horned Owl Adult | Source
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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 7 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      ChitrangadaSharan, amazing there is a great deal in the heart of the city. Just look up on building ledges in the spring for nesting Peregrine Falcons and Red-tailed Hawks. If you're not sure where to find them, speak to some local birders through a birding organization. You can even see babies that way.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 7 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Great hub about Owls and your pictures are so beautiful! We don't get to see owls from such close quarters. I am always very curious about them. Must admit your hub is very educative to me.

      Thanks for this excellent information!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 14 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Missy, I'm glad that you liked this story. Many owls do get hit by cars , as they fly low when going across roads. The most injuries for owls are with the eyes due to strikes, since their eyes tend to protrude. Glad that you have had the joy of seeing some of these stately raptors. I heard a Barred Owl today while birding.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 14 months ago from Florida

      Owls are beautiful. I've caught a few hanging out across the street from our house a time or two. It's all woods over there; tall pine trees mainly. I love to hear them hoot.

      One time my brother-in-law was driving home from work at dusk, and one came straight out of the woods. Unfortunately, he was unable to stop fast, so the owl hit the car, but fortunately, he pulled over and picked the owl up and brought it home. It didn't seem to be hurt too bad or in pain, so we got in touch with someone who ran a wildlife preserve and took it to them, so they could nurse it back and let it go.

      Beautiful birds! I love them. They don't look mean to me. They look like their namesake; The wise old owl. lol. Great Hub!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 15 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      There's so much in the birding world, swalia. It is wide open for new discoveries, too, which is why I chose it for a degree.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 15 months ago

      Very interesting hub! Most of this information is new to me.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      onegreenparachute, owl are rarely heard. They are generally silent, and strike quickly. I have worked with many varieties of owl, and find them all fascinating. I once recall work with my first saw-whet. I put him down, and he fell. I learned that is something that they just do.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Sharkye! Yes, it takes a certain amount of nerve to do things of this nature, but I was climbing since I was 3. I was a handful for my mother, then the birds had to put up with me. Honestly, though, my first love has been birds for quite some time, and still is.

    • onegreenparachute profile image

      Carol 4 years ago from Greenwood, B.C., Canada

      I love birds of any kind and found this hub very interesting. I was especially thrilled to hear what a great horned owl sounds like. I know we have owls in our area but I have only seen one. It was flying at dusk and flew so close I could hear his feathers rustle in flight. Amazing!!

      Voted up and shared.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      This was so interesting to read. I love owls. We had one nest in a tree behind our house last year. It was fascinating to observe. Kudos on the bravery it takes to risk being attacked by an owl while so high up in a tree. I really admire that dedication.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I did, Painterpyro, as a volunteer when I was in Delaware from 2004-2006. I really miss it.

    • painterpyro profile image

      painterpyro 4 years ago from Montana

      You do this kind of work? Amazing. You are a very brave person.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, molometer! I did the photos from the ground. The only time that I've had to be up there was when I had to put the little ones back in the nest.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 4 years ago

      Great work on getting up to the nest. Very tricky with big Owls. They can be aggressive.

      I love Raptors, they remind me of their ancient ancestors.

      Great hub all the votes.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Suelynn, being up high was not a problem for me. Having been involved as a general contractor and house painter, it was routine. Glad that you liked the story.

    • Suelynn profile image

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Fabulous hub and really interesting... I had no idea babies could be returned to their nests! I take my hat off to you for being willing to get up 30-40 feet in the air to do that! Voting up and interesting, aviannovice! :)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Crazyhorsesghost, Bless his little owl heart!

    • crazyhorsesghost profile image

      Thomas Byers 5 years ago from East Coast , United States

      He is quite the character and is really affectionate. He likes some people while there are some people he can not stand. I just took him some mice and he was so happy. He can not fly but 8-10 feet so he walks most every where he goes and he often comes to the front door and looks in at me.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, crazyhorsesghost. As a rehabber, you understand these things. I enjoyed working with the young ones, and the adults, too, as they have their own special ways about them, too. Glad to see that your male GHOW has a special place in his heart for you.

    • crazyhorsesghost profile image

      Thomas Byers 5 years ago from East Coast , United States

      Very interesting Hub on the Great Horned Owl. I take care of birds and animals that are injured for the Fish and Game Commission and I've had one big male that can't fly for a number of years now. He sets on his tree in the back of the barn and he's quite the character. I voted your hub up across the board as I found it really interesting.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      grandmapearl, if you can get a picture of one, I can tell you what it is.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Gloshei. Renesting was a fun project, even though it could be a little risky.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Very Interesting! I loved reading about the owls. I hear them from far away beginning in about late February. Our owls say "hoo, hoo, hoo, hooooo! Once in awhile I catch a glimpse of one swooping down over the road in the woods where we live. Lots of mice, voles, rodents of all kinds. Great hunting grounds for owls, as well as hawks. Voted Up and shared.

    • Gloshei profile image

      Gloria 5 years ago from France

      Another lovely hub avian and like you I love birds, we don't get many owls around here though.

      The videos are great.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I appreciate the fact that you liked this! Now that I have told you how to find some of them, have at it, and renew your childhood memory!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Loved this. Growing up I heard owl all the time and saw them a few times but now it has been years. I just love them! You did a great job.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, vwriter. It is a misnomer that birds will not accept young if they are touched by people. Yes, you'll need binoculars for a lot of birds, or a spotting scope to view them well.

    • vwriter profile image

      vwriter 5 years ago from US

      Great hub. I found it intriguing that the owlets can be put in a wicker laundry basket and the parents will accept them back. I was lucky to see an owl that was nesting. I needed binoculars just to get a good look. Voted up.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Joyce! Oh, they ARE gorgeous. The babies have soft down, so they look cuddly!

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Great Hub about the owls they looked lovely,

      Voted up and beautiful, Joyce.

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