Great Horned Owl Renesting Effort


“Is it worth all the effort?” a reporter asked.  My reply, even though the question wasn’t directed to me, was “how is it not??”.  I was too busy documenting all that was going on around me to elaborate on what I meant.  I’ll briefly do it here.  What I meant was, we as humans take and take and take from this planet.  So at the very least, when an opportunity presents itself to give back.  We should give back.  Without question.  Putting “Baby” as I call “it” (we don’t know the sex) back in the wild where it will have the best chance for survival is the right thing to do.

It started with a caring citizen noticing an owlet on its own with no siblings or parents in sight on the ground and what appeared to be a destroyed nest.  Not a good scene.  It appeared as though a predator had trashed the nest and preyed upon (I’m being gentle here…the circle of life is hard for me.  In my fairy tale world, everyone lives and everyone is safe and happy.  Sunshine & unicorns.  Yes.) the other owlets.  This little owlet was brand new.  Maybe five days old.  Eyes weren’t open yet.  Teeny weeny fuzzy little thing.  The gentleman who found it reached out to the right place for help.  Hoo’s Woods Raptor Center (

Dianne Moller, Executive Director of Hoo’s Woods and my friend, shared the story with me.  Her rehab center does amazing rehab and education work for our feathered friends.  I got to meet Baby and take some pictures of this cute little fuzzbutt.

GHO and Snowy_7820blog

GHO and Snowy_7816blog

Dianne explained that Baby’s best chance at surviving was to be put back in the wild with a new family.  That meant renesting the bird.  Time was of the essence here…since Baby was now starting to open it’s eyes.  If Dianne continued to feed it, soon she would have to pretend to be a Great Horned Owl and used a sock puppet to fake the little guy out.  We (ha!  How do you like how I inserted myself into the story!) had to move fast.  Networking with friends, a nest was found.  SCORE!  HWRC (Hoo’s Woods Raptor Center) put up a Facebook post looking for help to get the bird into the nest high up in a tree.  The people who knew about Baby shared the post and folks…this is where it gets amazing.  Within hours, like less than two, of posting that Baby needed help, a plan was hatched (yup…I went there).  We had people from the community offer their services to get Baby back home again.  And about 24 hours later….Baby was home with it’s new family.

Baby GHO_7992

Enjoy the images from Baby’s big day.


Baby GHO_7995Baby GHO_7997Baby GHO_8002Baby GHO_8006Baby GHO_8024

Vic Merrifield, also my friend (man, I have good people in my life!) works for LP Tree Service offered his assistance.  Vic, his fantastic team along with the support and equipment of LP Tree Service gently placed Baby high up in its nest with its new siblings.

Baby GHO_8031Baby GHO_8035


Vic said that the nest had the worst smell he’s ever experienced.  No thank you.  I only like good smells.  Thanks for the sweet nest view shot Vic!!!

This entire effort was done quickly and as quietly as possible.  Baby needed to get back into a nest STAT.  Mom & Dad GHOwl needed to accept Baby as their own and start to feed & care for him/her.  We needed to get out of there so Mom & Dad GHO would come back to the nest.  Its still pretty cold out for the littles.

Baby GHO_8079

Mom or Dad was nearby watching us.

What I learned was:

  • GHO can’t count.  They don’t notice another mouth to feed.  Sidenote, you don’t want to over tax the parents by giving them too many mouths to feed.  Actually WE don’t want to do this at all.  Always get the help of a reputable rehab center to handle renesting (or any questions you have).
  • Birds can’t smell.  So the old wive’s tale that they’ll smell a human on their babies and reject them.  Not true.  Only turkey vultures can smell.  Which is why they are the clean up birds.  They smell rotting flesh and have at it.  Nom nom nom.
  • Owlets are born and hatch at intervals.  Like in the nest picture above you can clearly see the age difference.  Which is why this family was a perfect fit for Baby to join.
  • Owlets at a certain point in their growth will spend some time on the ground.  The parents will bring them food and teach the owlets how to catch, kill and eat their prey.
  • These same owlets can ‘run’ up a tree with their talons.  So if you see an owlet on the ground, and its eyes are open…it has fuzzy feathers…leave it and get away from it.  Mom and Dad are in control.  Its being home schooled on the ways of being an owl.  Now with that, if you seen an owl on the ground and you just aren’t sure (eyes aren’t open, appears hurt)….call Hoo’s Woods (608) 883-2795) and Dianne will help to assess the bird’s situation.
  • The biggest lesson I learned was that the people in my life are straight up amazing.  In record time we got a plan in place to get Baby back home.  I got to witness human kindness and a massive outpouring of support for sweet Baby.

Baby GHO_8058

I have incredible respect for Great Horned Owls who just do what it takes to raise the young.  No matter the circumstances.  Not even if they are biologically theirs.  If by chance one of their young falls from the nest, they will feed and care for it on the ground.

Last lesson.  Respect the wild.  If you come upon something you aren’t sure of, call for help.  (Google rehab or wildlife rescue for your area.)  Ask questions.  Watch from a distance.  Most of the time, nature has it covered.  But if you are like me and can’t rest until you know things are ok….call for advice.  Then everyone can rest easy.

Hoo’s Woods has checked on Baby.  The parents are back at the nest taking care of their family.  All is right in the world.  Give them a “Like” on FB.  For more information on raptors, check out one of HWRC’s programs.


About olivephotographics

Passionate about photography, digital imaging, scrapbooking, golf and loving about a million other things!
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