A Great Horned Owl Feeding Owlets

by Larry Jordan on April 25, 2012

Great Horned Owl (Bubo viginianus)

I got up early hoping to see an adult Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) at the nest. I was not disappointed!

Fortunately my friend Frank Kratofil introduced me to this Great Horned Owl nest a couple of years ago and, according to the locals, the owls have been nesting here for several years. I did, however, I miss them last year when they chose a different nest location.

I arrived just before sunrise to see several darkened shapes in the large old oak tree, and yes, one was an adult! Little did I know what a treat I had in store.

I saw two lighter colored shapes as I slowly approached the nest tree, the larger darker adult standing guard above them.

The parent owl slowly made her way down the main trunk to the nest site and perched on the rim of the rotted old stump that must have once been a mighty branch of this old tree.  She peered down into the nest as one of the owlets made its way toward the nest and squeezed past her down into the nest cavity.

She followed, then struggled to turn around in the nest only to reappear at the rim of the nest with some type of prey! She began tearing meat from the prey as the young owlet came up under her breast to be fed.

This being my first time ever seeing a Great Horned Owl feeding its young, I moved to a better viewing location. My new angle at the nest revealed a third owlet in the nest!

It was a real joy watching her feed the youngsters to tenderly.

Breaking the near silent atmosphere of the feeding session, all of a sudden a pair of Canada Geese flew around the large oak.

Then this crazy pair of geese came right over the nest site…

and looked like they were trying to land right above the owls.

She looked at me seeming to ask “what was that all about?”

Finally, the owlet that had been patiently waiting up top, outside the nest, got some attention when mama brought what was left of the Western Grey Squirrel up to share.

As the sunlight began to encroach on this now tranquil scene…

she took what was left of the squirrel back into the nest…

and took a long deserved rest.

For more great bird photos from all around the world, check out World Bird Wednesday, hosted by Dave Springman over at The Pine River Review!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Howell Cromer April 26, 2012 at 4:53 am

Whoosh…mesmerizing! I would so adore a session like you were blessed to enjoy! Your images are wonderful the video snaps are amazing and will be the next best thing to viewing in person for me~ Great post!


TexWisGirl April 26, 2012 at 7:45 am

magnificent footage! what a great scene to witness! those young ones are adorable, and she is a great mother!


springman April 26, 2012 at 9:03 am

All praises Larry. NG stuff!
I am surprised how calm and orderly the owlets were in waiting for their squirrel breakfast. Compared to some GBHeron footage I saw earlier today, where the nestlings seemed to be attacking the breadwinner, the difference is incredible.
Man, what a phenomenal angle you acheived. Compositions like yours, tiered up the knarled trunk choir like, give me the feeling of that third demension, so elusive in a two D artform.
And you got killer video too?
Fine job Sir!


Tammy Karr April 26, 2012 at 10:26 am

Wow, that is amazing footage! Your pictures are outstanding as well. This is great interaction to see. Great Horned Owls are one of my absolute favorite species to see. I was lucky enough to see a few owlets this year, but I didn’t get to view an interaction with their parent.


Larry April 26, 2012 at 7:16 pm

@Mary thank you so much! The entire experience was just amazing. I was flabbergasted when the geese tried to land in that tree. I didn’t know what to think!

@Theresa thanks, she is a great mother indeed!

@Dave you are so right about the difference between the owls and heron nestlings. I shot some video of Green Heron nestlings being fed and I thought they were going to tear their parents beak off!

@Tammy I know how you feel! I was so excited when I saw the adult at the nest site, then I got even more excited when she pulled out the squirrel!


CameraCruise April 27, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Wow, great post!
Loved to see your gorgeous shots and videos of the owls.
I’d love to see an owl. I hear them in the forest not far from our house, but I’ve not been able to see them.
Thanks for sharing.


Mia McPherson April 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm

How wonderful that you were able to see & photograph the adult feeding the young. These “Tigers of the Sky” do appear to feed their chicks with a tenderness. Love the sequence of images Larry!


Pat April 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm

What wonderful shots of the owl family!


Amila May 1, 2012 at 1:59 am

This is amazing ,Larry! Grand looking birds. The videos are fantastic. I have never photographed an owl, but their a priority in my list. I can’t help envying you! 🙂


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