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About The Nest

Both GHO in nest 01182023_edited.jpg

Location

The nest on the cam is located on private property in an undisclosed area since some raptors can be quite sensitive to human activity while nesting.  The Great Horned Owls visited the nest last nesting season without producing any young and have been visiting the nest since September 2023 and we are hopeful for a protective nesting season.  

Hilton Head Great Horned Owls ("GHO")

Facts about Great Horned Owls:

GHOs typically nest in trees such as cottonwood, juniper, beech, pine and others.  They usually adopt a nest that was built by another species, but they also use cavities in live trees, dead snags, deserted buildings, cliff ledges and human-made platforms.  Nests often consists of sticks and vary widely in size, depending on which species originally built the nest.  GHOs add little to no nest material but may line the nest with downy feathers plucked from their own breast, fur or feathers from prey.  In courtship, male performs display flight and feeds the female.

 

Female GHOs are larger in size than their mate weighing around 3.5 pounds.  The male weighs around 2.7 pounds. 

 

Instead of turning eyes, an owl must turn its whole head and the GHO can rotate its neck 270 degrees.

 

The clutch size is between 1 – 4 eggs and have 1 brood per year.  The egg weighs around 1.8 oz.  Incubation period is 28 to 35 days (averaging 33 days) and the young may leave the nest and climb on nearby branches at 5 weeks.  The owlets can fly at about 9-10 weeks; tended and fed by parents for up to several months.

 

The female alone usually does all the incubation and rarely moves from the nest, while the male owl captures food and brings it to her typically soon after dark.

 

At birth the young weighs 1.22 oz. on average and can gain about 1.2 oz. a day for the first four weeks of life with typical weights in the range of 1.8 or 2.2 pounds by 25-29 days for males and females, respectively.  When first hatched the young are covered in whitish gray down, with some brownish about the wings.

 

Diet includes a variety of mostly mammals and birds.  Mammals make up majority of the diet including many rats, mice, rabbits, squirrels, possums.  Birds include ducks, hawks and smaller owls.  They also eat snakes, lizards, frogs, insects and rarely fish.

 

All eyes will be peeled for the first egg to be laid and the ‘pip’ or breakthrough of the eggshell by the owlet inside.  

​There are many bird nests in the Hilton Head area including eagles, osprey, red tailed and red shouldered hawks, owls, and great blue heron nests to name a few.  

·        Cool Facts

·        Great Horned Owls are fierce predators that can take large prey, including raptors such as Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons, Prairie Falcons, and other owls. They also eat much smaller items such as rodents, frogs, and scorpions.

·        When clenched, a Great Horned Owl’s strong talons require a force of 28 pounds to open. The owls use this deadly grip to sever the spine of large prey.

·        If you hear an agitated group of cawing American Crows, they may be mobbing a Great Horned Owl. Crows may gather from near and far and harass the owl for hours. The crows have good reason, because the Great Horned Owl is their most dangerous predator.

·        Even though the female Great Horned Owl is larger than her mate, the male has a larger voice box and a deeper voice. Pairs often call together, with audible differences in pitch.

·        Great Horned Owls are covered in extremely soft feathers that insulate them against the cold winter weather and help them fly very quietly in pursuit of prey. Their short, wide wings allow them to maneuver among the trees of the forest.

·        Great Horned Owls have large eyes, pupils that open widely in the dark, and retinas containing many rod cells for excellent night vision. Their eyes don’t move in their sockets, but they can swivel their heads more than 180 degrees to look in any direction. They also have sensitive hearing, thanks in part to facial disc feathers that direct sound waves to their ears.

·        The oldest Great Horned Owl on record was at least 28 years old when it was found in Ohio in 2005.

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