RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Early morning deep in the wildlands of southernmost Texas, a Great Horned owl soars into the uppermost branches of a venerable mesquite.
After scanning the surroundings from her lofty perch, she alights near the nest where three hungry owlets eagerly await her arrival.
Next, she delicately drops onto the bulky bundle of sticks, mindful not to land on her young. She peers attentively down into the nest making sure all three youngsters are accounted for.
Cautiously stepping into the nest, she carefully avoids injuring the owlets with her formidable talons.
She then selects a morsel from the nest and offers it to one of the hungry young that ambitiously begins devouring what appears to be the remains of a large rat.
Once breakfast is completed, she tucks her brood beneath her wings and settles down to shield them from the summer sun.
The Great Horned owl is the largest owl in South Texas, with a wingspan of some four feet, and is a fierce predator armed with powerful talons and a razor-sharp beak. Its so-called horns are actually just tufts of feathers.
Primarily nocturnal hunters, both the male and female great horned owl hunt for their offspring, but the slightly larger female does the majority of the feeding.
Great Horned owls do not build nests themselves, but rather appropriate nests built by other birds of prey, and this family has taken up residence amidst the thorny branches of an ebony tree.
After incubating for some 30-35 days the owlets hatch and then take approximately five weeks to fledge. Once they leave the nest, they will not fly well until nine or ten weeks and will continue to be cared for by their parents.
These owlets are only a couple of weeks old and it will be many weeks before they will join their parents as rulers of the night sky.