This Year’s Great Horned Owl Family

By Dan Weisz

Last year I was gifted to see several different families of Great Horned Owls in the Tucson area. This year, the owls did not return to the same sites and until a few weeks ago, I had no sightings of Great Horned Owls even though I know that these owls “nest” in the Foothills area. Thankfully some friends asked me if I knew of a family in mid-town Tucson. I rushed over and the following photos show you some of what I was able to see over two different mornings.

The mother Great Horned Owl sat out in the open near her two owlets.

The owlets are not so small anymore. They are “branching”, meaning they have left the nest and are hanging out along the branches of their nest tree and the neighboring tree. They can hop/fly a bit but I never saw extended flying yet. It is likely to be happening any day soon. The owlet below seems to have gotten a feather stuck in its beak while preening. Don’t you hate when that happens?

Seconds later, the feather was gone and the owl began checking us out. You can still see some soft, white ‘baby’ feathers on this bird’s head and breast but many of the juvenile feathers are already in.

Two days later this young Great Horned Owl put on a show for me. Its back and wing feathers contrast with its downy breast feathers.

It then began a very slow and deliberate wing stretch.

And although the eyes seem to show an attitude, that’s more of our own interpretation than the bird’s intent. You can see that the bird has its nictitating membrane up over its pupils.

Wings a little more spread and third eyelid still active.

This is my favorite shot. Don’t you agree?

After a few minutes, the Great Horned Owlet relaxes and settled back down. Those talons impress me.

With the bird relaxed, I figured it was time to go. Until next time…

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