Backyard Owls

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This spring, we were really fortunate to have
a pair of great horned owls nest successfully
right at Officer's Row in Mammoth.

When the owlets hatch, they're pretty tiny
and they're not visible.
It was about four weeks before any sign
of activity in the nest.
We were all like parents or grandparents or whatever
because we were looking for any kind of sign
that said the nest was successful.

Shortly before the middle of May, we got to see
that there were young owlets in the nest.
Owlets grow pretty quickly. They can start hopping
out of the nest at about six or seven weeks,
and be capable of short flights at about seven weeks.
But they're dependent on the adults for several weeks
after that, the male especially, to bring food to them.
They're learning how to fly, but landing
is always an issue, and landing on something
you can eat is even more challenging.

By late fall or early winter, they're going
to be out of the adult's territory...
if they're still alive.
Juvenile mortality is really high in the natural world
and that dispersal - not having the adults
to depend on for food - is the challenging time.
That's make or break time.

What was fortunate about this pair,
this year and in previous years,
is they're pretty tolerant of lots of people
observing them from a safe distance.
It doesn't mean they're tame,
by any means: the distance to remain from them
is still 75 feet, but people loved it.
Because it's a treat, it's a great treat
to get to see owls.

I'm Katy Duffy. I'm the interpretive planner
for Yellowstone National Park.

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Duration:
2 minutes, 19 seconds

Great horned owls live in Alaska, Florida and virtually everywhere in-between, but people rarely get to see them because they mostly hunt at night. This spring, a pair of owls delighted crowds in Mammoth Hot Springs when they established a visible nest, and hunted during the day since that's when their local prey (the Uinta ground squirrel) is most active.

 

Last updated: August 10, 2015

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