Bonnie and Clyde’s Owlets

A pair of Great Horned Owls (GHOW) moved into a Bald Eagle nest on farmland near Newton, Kansas on 1 February 2021. The farmer that owns the land named them Bonnie and Clyde after the notorious bank robbers who were killed in an ambush in Louisiana on 23 May 1934.

Great Horned Owls (GHOW) are notorious for using the nests of other birds instead of building their own. They normally lay their eggs in January and February using unoccupied nests of other raptors or squirrels. They also use hollow trees and cliff ledges. Bonnie and Clyde visited the nest of the eagles to check it out. Perhaps they thought it was an abandoned nest – at first. The eagles either saw the owls or had some reason to check their nest. That evening, 31 January, the Bald Eagles spent the night on their nest. One of the GHOWs flew through the nest knocking one of the Bald Eagles off. The following day there was a single confrontation. Neither bird was injured. The Bald Eagles are a young couple and they will have found another spot for their nest.

Bonnie incubated her egg/s keeping it a big secret on how many there were. At 5:20 on 6 March Bonnie took a mouse from her mate, Clyde, but she did not eat it – instead she put it in the nest cup! For sure there was an owlet. A couple of days later it was believed the second had hatched. So far it has been difficult to see the little owlets.

If you look carefully at the image above, you will notice that the owlet’s eyes are closed. The oldest one is believed to be eight days old; it hatched on 7 March and the youngest hatched on 9 March. Normally their eyes open between 7-9 days. And believe it or not, in six to nine weeks these fluffy balls could fledge! Clyde is going to need to do a lot of hunting!

Owls have extraordinary vision. Because they cannot turn their eyes in their sockets, owls turn their heads 270 degrees without moving any other parts of their body. It is almost like having eyes in the back of your head!

Looking at the following two images. Bonnie does not move her shoulders at all, just her head.

Look at Bonnie’s eyes. Her top eyelid is much larger than the bottom. The only birds that have this are other nightjars -Nighthawks and Whippoorwills.

We think of owls as being only nocturnal but they can see perfectly well during the daytime. They actually close their eyes to a small slit. It makes them look like they are sleeping when, in fact, they are only blocking the bright light. When hunting they can see perfect below them because of the area where their vision cells (the rods and cones) are grouped, the fovea. When hunting at night, the owls are silent because of their soft rounded feathers. They also see extremely well at night but their exceptional hearing also helps them.

Owls are great mousers. Bonnie and Clyde will keep Farmer Derek’s rodent population down. Owls are a much better solution than rodenticide.

Thank you for checking in with me today. I hope everyone is well and safe. Thank you to Farmer Derek for his streaming cam. That is where I got my scaps.

3 Comments

  1. We’re watching Bonnie and Clyde again this year! I found your blog while looking for the type of tree they live in and I didn’t see it covered here and wondered if you happened to know.

    Bonnie and Clyde have produced two fascinating owlets this year and they’re growing fast!

    I found your background and current research fascinating. We’re in Ottawa and have plenty of osprey’s we enjoy watching. They are on the cusp of returning as the water opens here.

    Hope you are well and thanks for the blog!

    Cheers,
    Phil

    1. Dear Phil. Thank you so much for reaching out. I am so glad you are enjoying the blog – and it is so nice to hear from someone in Canada! Ospreys. Ottawa. You are so lucky! We have one on a light tower at the university but most of ours are 6-7 hours northwest. I will see if I can find out about that tree at Farmer Derek’s. I think I knew at one time and might have a note.

    2. Dear Phil, I have confirmed that it is an Oak Tree where Bonnie and Clyde are raising their two owlets this year. Gosh, they are growing. There are several varieties and I am trying to confirm which particular variety it is. Will let you know when I have clarity on that but for now a very old Oak tree!

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