Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS
Public Affairs Specialists Tina Shaw and Courtney Celley, from our Midwest Region, show us an urban great horned owl nest that has overcome the odds!
Even though we may not see them often, great horned owls are quite common across nearly all of North America and much of South America. These owls can be found in remote forests, but they can also thrive in urban areas and city parks. We recently discovered a nest in a busy Minneapolis park, and it turns out there’s quite a backstory.
In early March, a storm had knocked down the nest and chicks were discovered on the ground. This is a common occurrence for great horned owls because they reuse nests built by other species and don’t make any improvements before moving in.
As with most species, great horned owl parents will continue to care for their young on the ground, feeding them and protecting them as much as they can. Normally, the best thing you can do if you find baby birds on the ground is to not interfere with Mother Nature; she will take care of them. But because this nest was in a busy park filled with people and domestic animals, staff at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center decided to assist.
The first step to protecting these young owls was to create a sturdy nest structure that could withstand strong storms. The nest also had to be big enough to provide enough room for the quickly growing owlets. Volunteers trained in nest creation assisted by building a new, reinforced platform. Next, the platform was placed high in a large white pine to protect the owls from the potential dangers of living in such a high traffic area. The tree provides cover, allowing people passing by to view the owls from a safe and respectable distance.
Today, the owlets seem to be doing quite well, and mom has been keeping a close eye on them. They’ve been practicing flapping and strengthening their wings. Soon enough, these young owls will be venturing out onto nearby branches as they start to explore the world just outside their nest. Thanks to the Raptor Center for making this nest a success!