Great Horned Owl who stole Bald Eagle nest: A Pip or a Hatch????????

Bonnie and Clyde stole a Bald Eagle nest on a farm near Newton, Kansas on 1 February 2021. The couple must have been desperate to find a place to lay their first egg of the season.

The tallest tree in the centre is where the young Bald Eagles made their nest. It was stolen by a pair of Great Horned Owls on 1 February 2021 desperate to find a place for Bonnie to lay her egg/s.

When the Bald Eagles suspected ‘someone’ had been at their nest, they spent the night there – something unusual during off season. One of the Great Horned Owls knocked one of the eagles off the nest. On another day there was a confrontation on the nest when Bonnie defended her egg.

Her and Clyde have kept the nest safe with Clyde bringing in mice for Bonnie around sunset until right before sunrise.

On each of those occasions, Bonnie would take the mouse and quickly eat it. She would ‘hoot’ her thanks to Clyde before he flew away.

At 5:20 am on the 6th of March, however, the action at the nest was different. Clyde brought a mouse to their regular branch. This time Bonnie did not eat the mouse immediately but she took it and deposited it in the egg cup. Observers believe that the first – and maybe it is the only egg – hatched recently. Bonnie had been restless on 5 March sitting higher up in the nest and doing jugular fluttering. Many thought this was to regulate her temperate but it is observed that she is not doing that today and it is actually warmer. Was she encouraging her owlet to hatch?

The following sequence of images show Clyde arriving on the branch, Bonnie responding to him, going up to the branch to retrieve the mouse, and Bonnie returning to the nest to place the mouse in the egg cup.

Bonnie has been very secretive. We do not know if there is more than one egg and we do not know precisely when the first egg hatched. We only know from Bonnie’s changed behaviour that there is something in the nest that requires food or will require food.

I found a short video of a Great Horned Owl feeding her young owlets:

You might want to watch these happy changes at the nest. The link to Farmer Derek’s streaming cams is here:

Enjoy! Have a great weekend!

Thanks to Farmer Derek for providing two streaming cameras showing the action at the Bald Eagle Nest hijacked by Bonnie and Clyde, a pair of Great Horned Owls.

Bonnie is not giving up any secrets. The nest bowl is deep! Sun is setting. It is 6 March 2021.

Bobbleheads and more Bobbleheads

The Bald Eagle nest at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey had three eggs. There is something really interesting and ‘cute’ going on at this nest. The oldest chick was born on 26 February and the little one was born on 2 March. If the third egg is going to hatch we should be watching for pips today or tomorrow. This experienced gorgeous mom is going to have her hands full! And quite a few other mothers as there appears to be a glut of Bald Eagle nests with three eggs in them this year.

When the parent is not around the oldest one sends a message of dominance by bonking the little one. This drives me nuts because I am always afraid that one of them will be injured. These little guys are, however, remarkable in their resilience.

4 March 2021 Bonking @Duke Farms Eagle Cam
Look at me! I am the boss! @Duke Farms Eagle Cam

However, when the mother is feeding and the big one stands in front, the little one has already figured out how to stretch its neck to get food from mom.

Let’s see how far I can stretch over my big sib. @Duke Farms Eagle Cam
Ha, ha. I did it. Mom saw me. @Duke Farms Eagle Cam

This is going to be interesting. At one time it actually gave the older sib a bit of a peck on the neck to get it to move so it could have a bite of fish! This little one is really smart. Those images were taken on 4 March 2021.

On 5 March, Mom has both lined up. There is not going to be any nonsense. Aren’t they precious?

One bite for you and another one for your sib. @Duke Farms Eagle Cam

At the Harrison Bay Bald Eagle nest in Tennessee, Athena and Eliot have welcomed HB 17 and HB 18 on 4 March. Looks like we have another set of twins. There is one more egg to hatch on the HB nest. The streaming cam didn’t focus in on the little ones but you can sure make out that there are two wiggling underneath their mom.

If you want to keep abreast of these little ones, here is the link to the Harrison Bay Cam:

And the new dad at the Kisatchie National Forest nest (NNF) is one super provider. On 4 March, it looked like there were parts of at least eight fish on that nest. Mom and baby continue to improve their feeding and eating rituals. It looks like they are going to have to eat much more or the parents will be building the nest rails out of those fish with dad stacking them up more and more.

Food Security @KNF Streaming Cam
Ah, that’s right. I turn this way and you bite that way! We got this. @KNF Streaming Cam

Here is the link to the KNF nest in case you want to see these new parents continue to learn and their only little eaglet grow. Look closely. There is a cute little tail forming – that white line of feathers on its tiny little end. If you would like to try and name this little eaglet, please send your name suggestions before March 7 to: nameKNFeagle@gmail.com

This week has been absolutely crazy with Ospreys laying eggs, Bald Eagles laying eggs, Ospreys flying home to the UK to their nests, and with the arrival of spring the first Canada Geese and Bald Eagles arriving in Manitoba. It is impossible to keep track of each and everyone!

You might, however, be wondering about that Great Horned Owl that took over the Bald Eagle nest near Newton, Kansas. This morning Bonnie appears to be sitting higher on her nest, is much more alert, and is doing tiny little chirpy hoots. This gular fluttering could be a way to regulate her temperature since it is a little getting warmer. Gular fluttering is a vibration of the bird’s throat tissues. But it is only 53 degrees F. Could it also mean that there might be some hatching?

Oh, I want to surprise everyone including Clyde. @Derek the Farmer

The link to catch all the action of Bonnie and Clyde, the Great Horned Owls that stole a Bald Eagle Nest is here:

Have a fabulous Friday everyone. Thanks for joining our check in on ‘the birds and their babies’.

Thanks to the following streaming cams listed under the captured shots.

Don’t mess with a Great Horned Owl named Bonnie

On a farm near Newton, Kansas, there is a tree. It has a Bald Eagle’s nest that, until a little over a week ago, belonged to a mated pair, Willie and Marie. It was ‘borrowed’ by a pair of Great Horned Owls, sometimes called Hoot Owls, that have been aptly named Bonnie and Clyde after the infamous bank robbers.

On 26 January 2021, the owls came to check out what appeared to be an unoccupied nest. This reminds me of when Daisy the Duck and her mate came to check on the WBSE nest in mid-December. Both have a look over the property to see if it is good for eggs and protection.

The owls decided that this would be the perfect spot to raise their family.

The next day the Bald Eagles come to check on their nest. Did they know that the owls had been there?

Something gave Willie and Marie concern. Normally they roost with a large group of eagles but that night, they chose to sleep on their nest.

In the middle of the night, a Great Horned Owl attacks them knocking one of the Bald Eagles from the nest. That was a game changer.

It wasn’t long til Bonnie, the GHOW, had laid her first egg right in the centre of the Bald Eagle’s nest.

In the image above, Bonnie, the owl, is on the nest. She has laid at least one egg. The norm is from one to five eggs. Great Horned Owls are absolutely fierce opponents as you can see from the confrontation that is taking place. In fact, Bonnie will defend her nest without hesitation. While most people will immediately think that owls are ‘cute’ and often ‘cuddly’ or ‘wise’ as in children’s story books, it is good to keep in mind that these are large raptors. They can easily kill, and do, all manner of falcons, Ospreys, as well as other owls. They are known to kill large prey by breaking their spines.

As with all other raptors, the female is the largest. Bonnie weighs, on average, 2 kg or 4.4 lbs. It is entirely possible that Bonnie’s mate, Clyde, weighs half what she does. Male GHOWs generally weight between 1 – 1.5 kilos or 2.2 – 3.3 lbs. Their wing span is about the same, measuring 1.2 metres or almost four feet. In comparison, a Bald Eagle has a wingspan of 1.8 – 2.3 metres or 5 ft 11 in – 7 ft 7 in. The average weight of an adult bald eagle is 6.35 kilograms or 14 lbs. In other words, the Bald Eagle is a lot larger than the Great Horned Owl. In the picture, it is hard to tell which of the raptors is, indeed, the largest. Had there been a fight between the two, both might have been injured. Thankfully, nothing has happened to date.

GHOWs have their young earlier than most other raptors. Generally, they lay their eggs and begin raising their young when the snow is on the ground. The Red Tail Hawks, on the other hand, do not normally lay their eggs until the third week in March, right about the beginning of spring. However, that does not seem to be the case with Bald Eagles. For example, the nest in Fort Myers Florida has eaglets that are twenty-six days old while E24 over at NE Florida, is nine days old. The Love Trio near Fulton, Illinois have laid their first egg on Valentine’s Day while other nests are ahead of them. It is unclear to me when this young mated Bald Eagle couple would have begun laying eggs on this nest. It seems to vary by geographical region and I presume normal climatic conditions. We know that this year in the US it is anything but normal now with the Polar Vortex taking over and causing severe winter storms.

I am left wondering about the Bald Eagles, Willie and Marie. What will they do for a nest? This GHOW has at least 21 more days til hatch. Those beautiful little owls aren’t going to immediately jump out of that nest and begin catching mice! No, they will branch (hop up to a close branch) when they are about six weeks old and will fledge taking short flights at seven weeks. That is, by my crude calculations, around the end of April or the beginning of May. Ah, those Bald Eagles aren’t going to wait that long to lay their eggs.

GHO chicks at 3 weeks of age. USFWS image.

These little fluffy owls are seriously cute with their big eyes. Not sure I would want to cuddle one thought unless it was a stuffy.

Adult GHOW and Juvenile, approximately 6 weeks old. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

In Canada, the GHOW is our second largest owl. The Snowy Owl is bigger.

There are GHOWs that live in a tree on a nearby golf course. On occasion, the owls come near to where I live. Indeed, last summer there was a huge commotion in the large trees in front of my house. Neighbours ran out to see what was going on. Everyone thought that the cute owl – it was a Great Horned – was being attacked by the crows. In fact, the owl had come to raid the crow’s nest. The crows had called in family and friends to help them move the owl along.

As I watched, the cheering section for the owl grew in size. Is it because owls are ‘wise’ or ‘cute and fluffy’ and Crows are black with sharp pointed beaks? I wondered about the impact of children’s literature and movies on the reactions of the onlookers to the avian behaviour. All manner of misconceptions have come to us through writers. One that really bothers me often is ‘fish do not feel pain’. I say that because many people get upset if, for example, White-Bellied Sea Eagles eat a Silver Gull because it has feathers but they don’t care at all if it brings a live fish onto the nest for the eaglets. What I have learned, most explicitly, is that birds are extremely intelligent. Their senses are more highly developed than humans and they share the same emotions that we have including mourning, joy, love, and intimidation.

In the course of six weeks, I have witnessed a Pacific Black Duck (our sweet little Daisy) make her nest in an unusual place, in a forest in the centre of a White-Bellied Sea Eagle nest. We will never know ‘why’ Daisy risked laying her eggs there and trying to incubate them to hatch but something motivated her to get her nest off the ground. Owls are often opportunistic. Their nests are not normally constructed year after year, twig after twig, like the eagles, for example. Did the owls lose their nest? Was their nest destroyed? Was the nest of the Bald Eagle just convenient for Bonnie and Clyde? This evening a Barred Owl attached Bonnie around 11:05pm. Bonnie was actually rolling her eggs when the owl came up from behind. You can see Bonnie trying to get her footing and the face of the attacker on the right. It is possible that owl has a nest close by or maybe it has its eyes on this prime piece of real estate. However, it would be a whole lot better if the smaller owl was ‘wise’ and didn’t try that move again. Bonnie just might be having a much bigger dinner than a mouse!

Barred Owl knocks Bonnie off balance while she turns her eggs.

That was not the drama that I was expecting. Sometimes these bird nests are better than anything being shown on the streaming stations on your telly! Happily no one was injured. Wonder what will happen tomorrow?

JUST A NOTE: IN THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING OF THE 18TH OF FEBRUARY WHEN IT WAS STILL DARK, AN OWL KNOCKED THE BALD EAGLE M15 OFF OF THE ATTIC WHERE IT WAS SLEEPING (IN A TREE ON THE PRITCHETT FARM) AND INTO THE NEST WITH HARRIET AND E17 AND E18. BONNIE IS A LARGE OWL SITTING ON THIS NEST IN KANSAS AND SHE IS A FORMIDABLE OPPONENT.

Thank you for joining me today. I am so glad that you stopped in. Stay safe and take care.

Thank you to Derek the Farmer for his streaming cam, the USFWS, and Wikimedia Commons.