It was mid January and a romance was unfolding in the Bronx.
Not just any romance but a love affair that would withstand a barrage of challenges. A unique love nestled between the trees and landing in one of the oddest places … the very top of the building shown in the picture above.
It was January 19, 2017 when I first heard them.
Hoo hoo hooo …hoo hooo
Hoo hoo hooo…hooo hooo
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing could it really be… a Great Horned Owl ? Yup! it sure was and in the days that followed, to my excitement it was not only one but a courting pair. At first I couldn’t see where they were planning to nest especially since it was still dark at 5:20 pm. Each evening I would see them approach the building from the forest but I couldn’t see where they were perching. The torture of not knowing went on for about two weeks! Then one early morning I finally saw her. Of course! that makes perfect sense – they took over the old Red-tailed hawk nest. Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) typically don’t build their own nests and normally take over previously owned real estate.
It was simply unbelievable. In the midst of all the chaos happening in New York City this resilient and determined couple picked the perfect spot. Urban wildlife has been creeping into our city for quit some time now and this is a perfect example of a successful breeding pair that will make it through the season, pretty much unnoticed.
Since Great Horned Owls are predatory birds they will leave their mark on the mouse, rat, and squirrel population this spring (super!). On occasion they will also dine on ducks, geese, and other birds including other owls. Typically a breeding couple will incubate two to three eggs for about 28-35 days and as you can see from the image below, this lovely couple is successfully raising two owlets. On average a chick can leave the nest after about 5 weeks but wont take to regular flight until about 9 weeks. During this time both parents are responsible for feeding these fast growing chicks.
Although this couple stays out of site most of the day, don’t take their elusive behavior as a weakness. Great Horned Owls are known for being aggressive (no wonder their nickname is the Tiger Owl) – which of course makes sense of why they can thrive in the boogie down Bronx! When their talons are clenched it takes about 28 lbs to pry them open. Now that is not the type of death grip I would want around my neck, but that’s exactly what happens when they catch their prey. This grip is used to deliver a quick blow to the spine which of course, instantly kills their prey. With this in mind groups of crows, also known as a murder of crows, will frequently mob Great Horned Owls to rid them from an area because owls have been known to eat crows. The threat is real and the crows know it!
From New York, to Los Angeles, to Berlin, and Paris, wildlife is adapting and going urban. This short summary of our Bronx Great Horned Owls is just a snap shot of the variety of wildlife that actually lives alongside us in our busy streets. Wild animals have caught up to us or should I say, have come back to reclaim what they had before we got here.
Sometime between April 18th and 19th, the chick living on the ledge of the building (shown above, aka “ledge baby”) survived repeated attacks from Crows and Red-tailed hawks. Its fully fledged and both parents were feeding it. As of April 20th, its sibling was still in the nest.
As of the first week of May both chicks have been successfully living in the forest. Although both chicks are growing fast and strong they are both still under parental care. They will remain that way for about another three weeks.
All Images, Audio & Artwork © 2018 N.Fontaine