For months we thought the old red-tailed hawks’ nest under the Homestead Grays Bridge was abandoned, but last Sunday John English discovered it is very much occupied — by a great horned owl. John posted the photo above in the Duck Hollow Facebook group with this diagram of its location.
Dana Nesiti (EaglesofHaysPA) stopped by yesterday and got this beautiful shot of the mother owl. In this species, only the females incubate and brood. Father owl perches nearby during the day.
Dana watched for 45 minutes and was rewarded with a glimpse of the tiny owlet — the round white head at center-right of the nest. I’m no expert but my guess is this owlet hatched 1-2 weeks ago.
Meanwhile, not far away….
At midday on Monday Cathy Bubash posted a comment on my blog that there was an injured owl on the road at Schenley Park’s Anderson Playground. We traded email addresses and Cathy sent photos. Oh my! It’s not an injured adult. It’s a fledgling great horned owl!
He’s old enough to fly, though he isn’t very good at it. He appears to be about 8 weeks old.
I visited the area at 4:30pm and found the owl safely perched on a hillside tree below the playground. His parents could find and feed him overnight … but where were they?
In all my visits to Schenley Park I’ve never encountered a great horned owl and never seen a nest. I rechecked two abandoned red-tailed nests on nearby bridges. Nothing.
On Tuesday morning the owl was back on the asphalt at Anderson Playground so Public Works employees wisely called the PA Game Commission who collected the owl and delivered it to ARL Wildlife Center for evaluation.
It’s a good thing this owl was rescued. He’s not injured but he is emaciated. Did he have parents in Schenley Park?
Based on his age — two months older than our local owlets — I had a theory that he hatched in the South, perhaps the Carolinas, and was brought to Pittsburgh by someone who dumped him at the secluded end of the playground when he got too big.
But my theory was wrong! After publishing this blog I learned that a Public Works employee saw a great horned owl this morning at 6:45am near the Anderson Bridge.
In any case, while this owl fattens up he will have a good foster mom at ARL. Martha the great horned owl will teach him everything he needs to know.
(photos by John English, Dana Nesiti, Cathy Bubash and Kevin Wilford)
Event: This Sunday, April 3, 4:00-6:00pm, you can meet owls from the ARL Wildlife Center at their fundraiser at the Galleria of Mount Lebanon. Click here to register.
p.s. Ravens are rare in the City of Pittsburgh but I saw a pair poke at the Homestead Grays Bridge nest on February 18. They were agitated. Now I know why. The owl was probably in the nest and just beginning incubation. Ravens hate great horned owls.
9 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Owls”
Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos from Homestead. So precious to see the owlet in the nest.
How great is it that there are so many people concerned about the well-being of birds. Without you, that fledgling didn’t stand a chance. Good going! Hope to read in the future how Martha is handling her foster-mom role with this youngster.
PA Gal, I don’t get any credit for rescuing the owl in Schenley Park. Cathy Bubash and DPW were the ones who got help for him.
I love the great horned owls. I watch a nest in Savannah Georgia. So glad the fledgling was rescued and is with his new foster Mom!
If the great horned owl near the Anderson Bridge turns out to be the fledgling’s parent, then isn’t it interfering with nature to rescue the fledgling? Would it not have been better to wait and observe to make sure? I thought it was always better to leave it to the parents if not injured. Can ARL rehydrate and feed the fledgling and return him? Or, is this park location that dangerous to his survival? Will he be rehabbed and eventually released? From watching the raptor cam sites these past two years, I am convinced that all fledglings are somewhat, to more or less degree, dehydrated and emaciated and itching with parasites when they first start to make it on their own until they gradually acquire the necessary survival skills.
Robin Anthony, yes it is important to wait and observe. The owl hid in the woods on Monday afternoon. We waited … and observed that he was back on the road Tuesday morning. The fact that he was starving and playing in traffic indicates that a rescue was in order. ARL is already alert to the possibility that his parents are nearby. Several of us will be scouting for the nest in case he can be returned.
What a great piece, Kate. I love that so many people care about these birds. I wonder if all the attention that, first the peregrines, then the bald eagles, have gotten has helped boost awareness of all other birds. Of course, no doubt, bird lovers in general would respond anyway. I think it is wonderful that Cathy took the time to try to help the owl she saw.
I do know that apparently like ravens, crows also hate great horned owls. Hunters hired by farmers to protect their corn crops from crows used to use stuffed owls on high poles to draw crows in so they could shoot the crows.
Kate great photos of these beautiful birds. I am so glad that the poor little owl was rescued in time. This gives me hope that there are still kind people in the world that take the time to get help for these otherwise helpless creatures.
So glad he is being taken care of.
I am mesmerized by the photos of the juvenile bird. He/she is so interesting. What a beautiful bird. In the second photo, it looks a little like a human might look in flight with a relatively long torso and legs, chunky round head and with the “arms” almost seeming to be in proportion to the body of a human because the wingtips are blurred. In the photo of the bird in the cage, it looks both curious and defensive, fluffing out its feathers to look big—vulnerable yet strong. Truly amazing.