Mother owl cares for her baby chick in the nest

Great horned owls are the largest and most impressive owls in North America. They are the tallest of their kind and they are the most formidable hunters. They prey on large rabbits and other rodents, such as squirrels and weasels. They will even take down and eat other owls. The great horned owl has the most powerful talons and grip strength of all the owls, capable of severing the spine of even large prey. And, as we see here, these owls also have a tender side. This mother owl is devoted to her baby and she will not leave his side for long until he is ready to stretch his wings and leave the nest on his own. She will leave only to hunt, returning with food for her owlet several times each day. The father shares the responsibility and he will also hunt and care for the baby. He watches protectively from a higher branch while the mother is away. No harm will come to this fluffy little fellow without tangling the male owl first. These parents are so well equipped to deal with a threat that even a large predator would be foolish to make the attempt at eating this baby. The great horned owl is the first to lay eggs each year, often beginning their nest and laying one to four eggs in February, one of the harshest months in the middle of winter in North America. They remain in the nest, keeping the eggs warm through brisk winds, snowstorms, and sub-zero temperatures. The eggs will hatch in March or April and the parents begin their busy task of feeding themselves and their young family. This owl fledged, or left the nest the morning after this video was recorded. The owlets' wings develop quickly and their fluffy down is soon replaced by growing flight feathers. The baby made a clumsy entrance as he flapped and dropped to the ground, breaking his fall nicely. After a brief rest, he hopped and flapped until he grew strong enough to lift off from the ground to perch on a low branch. He spent the day testing his new wings while his parents perched very close by. In a world where survival requires him to quickly gain the skills to feed himself and to be able to avoid a threat, he had no time to waste. Owls are crucial to the delicate balance of the entire eco system. Without them, the rodent population would increase and deplete the food supply for other animals and even humans. Owls, like other birds of prey have been adversely affected by the increased use of pesticides. As the rodents ingest the toxins and the owls ingest the affected rodents, they are also harmed by the buildup of poison. This is one more reminder that we have a responsibility to carefully consider our impact on the world around us.

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