NOTE: This observation is a continuation of a previous post. The earlier article can be found here: Great Horned Owl – VCDB Nests Update 9

Well, I finally got the good weather I had been hoping would coincide with a trip out to photograph the VCDB owl nests. The temperatures were warm, the sky was blue, and the morning light was just right for photographing the owlets.

The only problem was that the owlets were not there. The south nest was empty—the owlets had fledged. The north nest was also empty, but things were more complicated there. This nest seemed to be in a bit of disarray, like it had been damaged somehow.

When I took a closer look at the pictures from this session, I noticed something I didn’t catch during my brief morning visit. There in the tree, just below and to the right of the nest, was the carcass of a large bird—almost certainly one of the owlets. There had been a tragedy at this nest.

It is hard to say what happened here. A couple of possibilities I can think of are weather and predation. Earlier in the week some storms rolled through, but they were not particularly severe. I’ve also heard reports that a Red-tailed Hawk had been harassing this nest. Red-tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls can be bitter rivals, and are said to kill each other during some confrontations. The owlets would have been particularly vulnerable.

Things were unusually quite at the south nest when I arrived.
Things were unusually quite at the south nest when I arrived.
A closer look showed the nest to be empty.  The owlets had fledged.
A closer look showed the nest to be empty. The owlets had fledged.
The north nest had obviously been disturbed.  The carcass of a large bird hung in the branches below the nest.
The north nest had obviously been disturbed. The carcass of a large bird hung in the branches below the nest.
This picture compares the state of the nest as it is now (left) with how it was the previous weekend (right).  The red arrow indicates the location of the dead owlet.
This picture compares the state of the nest as it is now (left) with how it was the previous weekend (right). The red arrow indicates the location of the dead owlet.

Observation Details

County Tarrant
City Arlington
Date Apr 6, 2013
Time of Day Morning
Temperature Cool (50-69°F/10-21°C)
Weather Clear
Habitat Water-Bog/Marsh/Swamp
Type of Behavior Death, Fledging
Gender Uncertain
Maturity Juvenile
Observer Chris Jackson
Main Article Great Horned Owl Observation Location