Great Horned Owls are Back!

By Mal Welch
Skidaway Audubon 

Back after a five year hiatus, great horned owls are in the nest on our Palemtto golf course. After weeks of courting, and feeding rituals to prove he could support her, the female laid her first egg on January 17. 

The partnership between Skidaway Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology drives global attention to the unique environment of The Landings on Skidaway Island and to our Audubon International certified golf courses. There have been more than 10,000 views on Facebook, already!

In 2014, Skidaway Audubon installed two cameras at what had been a bald eagles nest, 80 feet above an Eastern marsh hole on the Palmetto golf course. The eagles did not return. However, great horned owls nested in both 2015 and 2016, fledging two owlets each year, and providing viewers, including local school children, a rare look at this nocturnal apex predator raising its young.

By 2017,  it was apparent that the nest tree was dying. Limbs required for the owlets test flights, jumping from adjacent branches into the nest to practice, had fallen, making it unsuitable for them. The owls did not return but osprey, a species that often nest on platforms, moved in and successfully reared and fledged their young, on camera.

When in 2018 it was decided the tree was unsafe and needed to be cut down, Rick Cunningham, a resident and member of Skidaway Audubon, made a bold proposal. Rather than relocate all the electronics for capturing the camera feeds, he would build a nest in an adjoining tree. He had many collaborators in the design and many volunteer hands to help execute, some even willing to join him 80 feet up for the installation. For good measure, Skidaway Audubon funded an additional camera, allowing for three different views of the nest. 

From the get-go, osprey used the new manmade nest. Each year thereafter, in 2020 and 2021, they refurbished it with additional sticks and Spanish moss, moving pieces around to make it more lush, suitable, and tempting. Since great horned owls cannot retract their talons, they are unable to do this sort of dexterous home improvement. So they always are on the look out to capitalize on the work of others.

That brings us to early 2022 and here she sits, a great horned owl, on egg #1. Dont miss the action! Click here to view the cameras or visit www.landingsbirdcam.com.