Monday, April 21, 2008

A Bitter-Sweet Tale of an Owl Family

A friend told me about a Great-horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) that was nesting in an old Cooper's Hawk nest in our neighbourhood. The nest is in an enormous eucalyptus tree. There were three babies. Before I saw them, one had been swept out of the nest in a fierce windstorm and was killed.

I took this photo on April 13. The light was poor and it was difficult to focus, but if you click on the photo, you can see the great big eyes of one of the two babies remaining at that time.
Owl Babies on Nest - 13 April
When I returned in the afternoon, the light was good, but the mother was on the nest and I couldn't spot the little ones at all.
Mother Owl on Nest - 13 April

On the evening of the 19th, I was driving by and I noticed a young owl attempting to fly out of the nest onto an adjacent branch. When I stopped to look, the property owner came out to talk with me and told me what had transpired since April 13, when I first saw the baby and its mother.
Last baby trying to fly - 19 April
 Last baby waits for food - 19 April
Earlier in the week, a second baby had fallen out of the nest and was killed. Predators had feasted on both the dead little ones. On April 17, the property owner spotted the mother in obvious distress on a transformer on a power pole. She called the University of Arizona and also the Tucson Electric Power Company. A wildlife expert from the UA and a crew from TEP arrived quickly, but the mother had been electrocuted and had died. The wildlife expert was going to call one of the wild animal rehabilitation centers, but the property owner spotted the father owl coming in to feed the remaining baby. The property owner and the UA expert will continue to monitor the owls. If the father doesn't continue to care for the baby, they'll contact the rehab center to come and rescue it

April 22 update: No one has seen the remaining young owl or the father since April 20. However, people in nearby homes have heard owls calling, so we're hoping that all's well with them. We mourn the loss of our owl family. Even though this is reality and we come to expect such things in nature, I find it's always difficult to accept these events. 
Image of the Day on Tortoise Trail Images: Sleeping Harlequin Duck


robin andrea said...

I can't even begin to imagine the distress that mother owl felt. What a sad story, pam. I hope all is well with the remaining baby and its father.

Snail said...

Even though this is reality and we come to expect such things in nature, I find it's always difficult to accept these events.

Of course. And that combination of knowledge and understanding is tied up in our passion for nature.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Pam, great post. I featured it in my Zen Nature Lessons post today at

Anonymous said...

As hard as nature can be (and how hard accepting it on it's terms is) I really enjoyed the story and the compassion of everyone involved. Thank you for sharing it.