These young great horned owls aren’t old enough to fly but they are big enough to take an interest in the world below their nest at the top of a eucalyptus tree. Those enormous yellow eyes enable this species to hunt their prey in the dark. This pair is still in the fuzzy phase, but they are quickly growing flight feathers and the distinctive feather tufts that give this bird its common name.
Great horned owls are the biggest owl species in the Santa Monica Mountains—adults can have a four-and-a-half-foot wingspan. Hunted aggressively throughout the early 20th century, they’ve made a strong recovery and have adapted to urban life, frequently making their home near humans and nesting in street trees and nesting boxes. It’s always a thrill to see them gliding on silent wings at dusk, or hear the distinctive call of “Who, who?”
Great horned owls nest in late winter and raise their owlets throughout the spring months. Anyone with a nest like this one in the neighborhood is blessed with an expert, all-natural rodent elimination service during nesting season. Great horned owls prey on rodents of all kinds but will also tackle skunks and even snakes. As successful as this species is, it is also fragile. Because great horned owls make their home in urban settings, they are at high risk from rodenticide poisoning, and young owls can be injured if their nest tree is pruned. Owls are also frequent victims of vehicle strikes. Waiting to prune trees in late fall, slowing down on the road at night, and making sure the Santa Monica Mountains remain rodenticide-free, are ways to ensure that this owl duo can continue to thrive.