Brooklyn hatches its first native great horned owlets in a century

Two great horned owlets on nest

Two Brooklyn great horned owlets on nest, through spotting scope

The pair of great horned owls nesting in Prospect Park successfully hatched two owlets.

The young owls, now several weeks old. You can see their fuzzy, tawny feathers on their nest or sometimes on a branch a few feet away on the same tree.  They’re “branching”–testing out their wings and feet. They’re probably going to take short flights soon. I hope they don’t end up on any pathways.

Last week I saw them them practice jump. They awkwardly flap their wings and are clearly thinking about flying. Birdweb says they’ll take a few weeks to learn to fly, but will probably stick around mooching off their parents until fall.

I got to see the baby owl faces for the first time this weekend thanks to a guy from the Brooklyn Bird Club, who generously pointed out a great spot to see the nest through the trees. We were taking a young birding friend, who was delighted with the view. The little boy kept saying “Oh my God!” when he saw their yellow eyes.

I appreciated the courtesy from the birder keenly because for many birders the first rule of urban owls is don’t talk about urban owls. The sharpest birders want to keep the find to themselves. Got to protect the birds from boys who might shoot them, they say. Or crowds. Or dogs. I personally think that the average non-birder getting excited about the owls are exactly what the owl needs to be protected in the moment and in politics from anybody who would harm them.

Turns out the nest was in the tree next to the one everyone was mooning over all winter. They seemed to fly out at dusk from the adjacent tree. Maybe that was just owl trickery. The real nest tree is the one crows voraciously mobbed for the last couple months. I’m not going to give out the locale, but there are now so many birders in Prospect Park, you may be  to find them by looking for them.

Birders, mobbing crows and blue jays, white guano on the path and a few owl pellets are the big clues, in order of descending frequency and usefulness.

If a report in the New York Times is true, it’s the first successful brood of great horned owls in a century in Brooklyn. (The Bronx is lousy with them.) The owls, which are already common in rural parts of the country, are staging an urban comeback.


pelicanpuffinhummingbird Where to SEE WEIRD BIRDS (All the interesting birds: pelicans, puffins, prairie chickens, vultures, hummingbirds)

Related posts:


On the advice of a right whale, we have closed comments for this post. If you have something really important to say, email us and we'd be delighted to reopen it for you. (The whale is only trying to prevent spam comments.)