March 6, 2020 – West Bend, WI – For the third year in a row a Great Horned owl is nesting in what looks like an old vent in the side of a building in West Bend. The photo below was snapped this week by Greg Lofy from ASP Images.
Mary Holleback is one of the educators at Riveredge Nature Center in Newburg. “The owls have already had their eggs and they’ve already hatched,” said Holleback. “At this point they’re little fluff balls. Give it a week or two and you might see a few heads poking up in there.”
Holleback said the owls are done mating, they’ve laid their eggs and they’ve hatched and there’s a chance the owls have some soft down on them already.
The website asknature.org has a great article on the feathers of an owl and how it aids in reducing noise in flight to make the owl a silent predator.
This fringe breaks up the air further as it flows off the trailing edge, resulting in a large reduction in aerodynamic noise. Then, any remaining noise that would be detectable by the owl’s prey is absorbed by velvety down feathers on the owl’s wings and legs. These soft feathers absorb high frequency sounds that most prey, as well as humans, are sensitive to. All together, these feather features enable owls to remain undetected when they fly.
Temperatures this March 2020 have been rather mild, even though overnight temps have dropped below freezing.
“This is the way it is every year with the owls trying to get a head start on the season,” said Holleback. “The Great Horns are the first ones to mate in Wisconsin and towards the end of the month the barred owls and screech owls will start nesting too. The Great Horns start early because it takes so long for their young to get mature enough to take off and get on their own before the end of summer. The owlets need to be self-sufficient before winter.”
While one owl has been spotted so far this season, Holleback said “usually the same adult pair come back to the same spot.”
“Say, last year they had a brood and if successful those young will fledge and they will disperse; they won’t go too far but the young don’t usually take the nest site from the adults,” said Holleback. “If the adults were not successful and the young died or froze to death then they usually look for another location. The whole name of the game is to reproduce and make more offspring for the next generation.”
Located below the nesting site is a rather graphic collection of last night’s dinner. Owls will take in food and then yack up hair and bones and what not; a lot of that is in a small grassy area right under the nest. (you have been warned)
Greg Lofy from ASP Images captured the mother owl sitting in a tree along the Milwaukee River.
If you happen by and don’t see the mother owl, take a look in the surrounding trees by the Milwaukee River. That’s good hunting area for them. Feel free to add your owl photos to the mix.