Owls Of Estes Park
There are six owl species that make the Estes valley and Rocky Mountain National Park their home. The largest of these is the Great Horned Owl. This magnificent bird is about two feet tall and has a wingspan of roughly four feet. Their most frequently heard call is a series of low hoots often translated to a kind of “Whoo, whoo, whoooo, who, who.”
Great Horned Owls do not build a nest, but use whatever platform or structure that they can find. They often nest in what is called a “witch’s broom.” A witch’s broom is a deformation of a tree that creates a perfect platform for the owls to nest on. Throughout the valley, these platforms are most frequently seen in Ponderosa Pine trees.
Great Horned Owls are one of the earliest nesting species in North America. In some areas of the country they begin nesting in January, but here in the Estes valley, nesting often begins in late February and early March. Female Great Horned Owls are incubating eggs now and some of the owlets should be seeing daylight in about two weeks. Great Horned Owls often raise two young but at times can raise as many as four owlets.
Some research suggests that a pair of Great Horned Owls and two owlets can consume over 5,000 items in a nesting season. Their prey can be anything from insects, mice and voles to grouse, small deer, skunks, young raccoons, hawks and even other owls.
I am interested in locating as many Great Horned Owl nests throughout the valley as possible to identify the nesting activity of the species in the area. If anyone knows of an owl nest that they would allow me to monitor, I would greatly appreciate being notified.
My research will consist of occasionally viewing the nest to identify hatch dates, and then periodically stop by the nest to identify the birds and animals that the owls are feeding on. I am also interested in getting photos of the owlets (young owls) as they grow and after they fledge and become “branchers.” Fledging means the owls have left their nest and branchers mean that the young owls are moving around the branches of the trees which they live.
If anyone has information that they would share with me, please call me at 577-1794
Researcher and Bird Rehabilitator