Owlet Branched

by Carl Strang

The great horned owl nestling at Mayslake Forest Preserve branched on Wednesday of last week. That verb is applied to that species when they leave the nest because they are not fledging, still being flightless. Typically they climb out of the nest, climb down to the ground, walk some distance great or small to another tree, and climb up it. The Mayslake bird wasn’t quite so venturesome at first, simply going up two branches above the nest platform. That night, however, it traveled to another tree about 30 feet away from the nest tree.

It was in the very top of a tall oak.

A series of thunderstorms came through the night after I took that photo. The following day, Friday, the owlet was in the same tree but well below its previous perch. I had a night hike on Saturday, but by then the youngster had moved again and I did not find it. I hope to see it from time to time through the summer. There was only one youngster in the end. I say this with some certainty because when there are multiple nestlings they generally stick together when branching.

Here is an example from the Red Oak Nature Center a few years ago.

There is no way of knowing whether the surviving owlet is the one that spent some time at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center, or the one that stayed in the nest throughout. Even if the rescued bird eventually succumbed, the effort resulted in the installation of a solid nest platform that benefited the surviving nestling, and may well provide a base the parents will use again in coming years.

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