A Great Horned Owlet with Wanderlust

great horned owlet and adult in nest, markham, ontario

On May 12, Bob and I went to check on the Great Horned Owls’ nest previously observed in a Markham park in Ontario, Canada.  We found the 3-week old Great Horned owlet hunkered down out of sight.  After a few minutes, the owlet appeared over the lip of the nest and looked in our direction.  We were there and gone after 15 minutes.

an image of bob in the forest, markham, ontario

Bob and I visited the woodlot again first thing in the morning on May 22.  Knowing that the owlet was no longer nest bound, we looked for a good hour all through the woodlot without finding any member of the owl family.  What we did find was a White-tailed Deer carcass surrounded by a mass of deer hair.

jean in a forest, markham, ontario

Poachers are known to be active in the forests around the area, and we deduced that poachers had killed this individual since the hide had been partially skinned.  In any case, the Great Horned Owls likely were able to scavenge some of the carcass for themselves and perhaps the owlet, as well.

great horned owlet, markham, ontario

When Bob and I had just about given up hope of seeing the owls that day, another glance into the crotch of a tall tree had my eyes alighting on the owlet.

great horned owlet, markham, ontario

We were very relieved because, sometime between May 12 and the 19th, it was discovered that the owlet had fallen from its nest.  The owlet was considered too young for branching, so speculation had it that the owlet got curious about the American Crows and their constant harassment.  Perhaps that led to the owlet tumbling to the ground.

great horned owlet, markham, ontario

The other possibility was that the owlet got overly eager and anxious to try out its wings.  Our friend had seen the owlet flapping its wings frequently during his last visit.

great horned owlet, markham, ontario

On May 20, someone found the owlet perched on a tree branch quite removed from the nest tree.  The nest no longer looked stable and perhaps that is what precipitated the owlet falling earthward.

great horned owlet, markham, ontario

Surprisingly, the owlet was now capable of moving around the forest.  It was seldom seen in the same tree twice.

great horned owlet, markham, ontario

The thinking was that the owlet was between 4-5 weeks old at this time.  Being rather on the small side, the owlet was quite possibly a male.

eastern cottontail rabbit

There was an ample supply of prey in the vicinity so we felt confident that the owlet was well fed.  Bob and I always heard squirrels chattering in the canopy, and Cottontail Rabbits were frequently seen at dusk when they emerged from cover to feed on the lush grass of the open areas.

great horned owlet, markham, ontario

Though we never caught sight of either adult Great Horned Owl on this visit, we knew that they were there keeping a close eye on their baby.  Bob and I spent a few minutes taking photos of the owlet before leaving the woodlot.  We were both relieved and reassured at having seen the owlet safe and sound.


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