February 19, 2016 | Larry Vickerman, Director of Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) at Chatfield Farms

This female Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is sitting on a nest despite the strong winds yesterday at Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms. This owl, with characteristic feather tufts on the head, typically nests in tree cavities, stumps or abandoned large nests of other birds. Monogamous pairs will have one to five eggs that both the male and female share incubating. Nesting often begins in late winter and incubation takes 28-35 days. The male of this pair was in another tree not far away. The Great Horned Owls are typically nocturnal so it can be difficult to spot them during the day. This pair was spotted by the Audubon birders along Deer Creek.

The male, in addition to helping incubate eggs, also is the primary hunter.  They often will swallow their prey whole and regurgitate “owl pellets” composed of bone, fur and other indigestible parts of the prey. The owls are deadly nighttime hunters that strike from above and use powerful talons to kill and carry animal prey. Prey can include rats, mice, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, chickens, falcons, other owls, skunks and occasionally unlucky cats and dogs.

Photo Credit: Rob Raker

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