RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – Crouched in their nest amidst the thorny branches of an ebony, a pair of fluffy Great Horned owl youngsters listen intently in the pre-dawn light to the distant hooting of their mother.
At first light she soundlessly lands in the tree and carefully enters the nest to check on her young. She gazes about with her large yellow eyes for any hint of danger.
The Great Horned owl is the largest owl in South Texas with a wingspan of some four feet and is a formidable predator armed with powerful talons and a razor-sharp beak. It’s so called horns are actually just tufts of feathers.
Throughout the day she shelters her offspring, and becomes instantly alert at any unusual sound or movement, swiveling her head from side to side searching for any threat.
Primarily nocturnal hunters, Great Horned owls have incredible binocular vision enabling them to detect prey in extremely low light. Their large luminous eyes are immobile within their bone sockets and so instead of turning their eyes the owl must turn its whole head. Their neck is capable of rotating some 270 degrees allowing them an impressive range of vision.
Occasionally, a curious youngster peeks over moms back, no doubt hoping she will soon depart with the setting sun and return with a meal.
More than a month will pass before the youngsters are ready to fledge and join their parents as rulers of the night sky.