Mar 16 2017

Great Horned Owls Nesting

By Mary Pringle for The Island Eye News

Photos by Barbara Bergwerf

For the last few weeks dog owners at the Isle of Palms Recreation Center’s dog park have been aware that Great Horned Owls were nesting in a tall oak tree within the chain linked fence there. Recent pictures show that the two owl chicks are doing well and getting very large. For this reason Recreation Center staff and the Center for Birds of Prey have posted signs and temporarily fenced off the area around the tree for the safety of the chicks.

When these owls reach a certain age they become what is called “branchers” and will explore not only the branches around their nest tree but also sometimes end up on the ground uninjured. This is normal for young owls after they leave the nest but cannot yet fly. Their parents keep tabs on where they are and continue to care for them for months after they fledge from the nest.

The Center for Birds of Prey has a dedicated “Renesting Team” of volunteers who work hard in the spring to make sure that young birds stay with their parents if at all possible. Techniques used include installing baskets, nesting platforms or nest boxes when a nest or tree is inaccessible or destroyed, monitoring for the presence of parent birds, and checking the weight of young birds to make sure they are being fed. By following these procedures approximately 50 birds of prey are kept with their parents each year to receive training that is essential for survival in the wild.

If someone tells you that adult birds will reject a chick if it is handled, do not believe this old myth. The best place for a young bird is back in the nest. If you have questions about renesting, please contact the Center at 843.971.7474 and visit the website at

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