GREAT GRAY OWLS (Strix nebulosa)
In 2015, a pair of Great Gray Owls (Strix nebulosa) nested at GROWISER. It was the third year
they had nested…but this spring and summer proved to be an exceptional "birding" experience
for everyone who visited.
The mother was first sited on the nest, March 4th. In early April, it was obvious that the chicks
had started to hatch. By May 8th, four chicks had fledged the nest. Normally, the male would
have then fed the fledglings until they were able to hunt on their own…about three months later.
On May 9, the male Gray was killed by a Great Horned Owl. The event of the Gray being carried off
by the Horned was actually witnessed, about 1/4 mile from the nest.
The female immediately began hunting, to feed herself and her family.
We made the decision, after consulting owl experts, to try to feed the mother...expecting she
would then feed the young owls.
We knew the field where the mother normally hunted. On May 13, within sight of the hunting
mother, we attached a live mouse to a block of wood. She immediately came and got it. She flew
back to the woods, and gave it to one of the fledglings. She took a total of four mice that first
evening. We knew we were in business :)
The community came together, providing traps and rodents, and lots of encouragement. We
caught live mice and voles, and fed the mother all summer long. By early July, all four siblings
were taking the rodents from us, and hunting on their own. The mother stopped feeding them on
July 13. When last seen, in mid-August, 2015, they were all healthy and happy.
More details of the story are published in Leigh Calvez's book, "The Hidden Lives of Owls: The
Science and Spirit of Nature's Most Elusive Birds" available from Amazon beginning Aug 16, 2016:
Photos by Andy Huber