Family ‘Owl’bum

By on April 8, 2015

About two weeks ago, The Ephrata Review was given the tip that a family of owls had made a home in the crack of a tree along the Cocalico Creek, across from the American Legion in Ephrata.

Since that time, Review photographers have stopped out several times to observe and capture mama owl and her three furry little owlets. Regulars in the park area say this has been a nest for several years but this season’s family seems to have drawn the most attention.

Photographer Mike Shull, also an avid bird watcher, shared that the Great Horned Owl occupies the most extensive range of any owl species. He said they can be found in all manner of habitats coast to coast from Alaska to the southern tip of Mexico, and have been found in South America with the exception of the Amazon region. Shull said any area, including suburban settings and parks, where deciduous and conifers exist, offers this owl what it needs to thrive.

While initial reports indicated there were just two owlets in the crack of tree, Shull soon discovered a third through his lens.

“No wonder the guardian adult is spending more time in nearby trees,” said Shull.

Shull also said they mate for life and typically lay two eggs per season, but that the number of eggs can vary from one to five.

He said during the January/February nesting season, Great Horned Owls do not build nests.

“They use nests previously built by large birds like eagles and hawks,” he said before referring to this particular situation. “They also nest in tree cavities and rock crevices.

Shull also added a few more facts about this type of owl, stating they can live to be 15 years old and they are the only known animal to eat skunks on any kind of regular basis.

Photographer Stan Hall was able to capture an image of a park squirrel making his way very close to the opening in the tree where the owl was currently residing. This presented yet another interesting scenario.

“The squirrels don’t consider the owlets a danger at this point,” said Shull. “Any squirrel on the rim of the nesting area would, however, be easy pickin’s if the adult were with the owlets. Since the adult owls are spending more time in neighboring trees, most of the squirrels get to live another day.”

Shull said The Great Horned Owl, also known as the “Flying Tiger,” is aggressive and fearless. It eats small to medium-sized mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

Shull estimates the owlets, whose fuzzy hair will turn to feathers, will be leaving the nest in about 15 days.


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