Great horned owls are one of the biggest owls in North America. Large and powerful, they are also one of the top predators of the bird world. They have unequaled grip strength and huge talons that are razor sharp. They can sever the spine of even larger mammals. Able to take town rabbits, medium sized animals, and even other owls, these birds are formidable hunters.
But they also have a tender side as we see here with this mother and her baby. This owlet was born in February in a quiet patch of forest in Canada. Great horned owls are the earliest nesters of the owls and the freezing cold of the winter months means that the parents work extra hard at keeping their eggs warm and protected until they hatch.
As the temperatures creeped up, this baby emerged and began life as a tiny, featherless creature. Leaving it alone for more than a few moments would mean certain death in the dead of winter. Both parents share the responsibility of providing heat and protection from predators. Even squirrels would consider this chick fair game and the nest is closely guarded.
As the owl grew, it sprouted tiny feathers and down and became more resistant to the cold. The parents would now dare to venture off in search of food, or they would watch from nearby branches as the owlet slept.
The father owl began perching in a nearby tree after the nest was too crowded, but the mother still enjoyed her cuddle time with her beautiful baby.
With 24 hours of this footage, this owlet ventured out on the branch and made a clumsy, but controlled descent to the forest floor. It wasn't quite flight but he landed unharmed. His mother fed him and encouraged him and he was able to flap well enough to perch on a low shrub by afternoon. Survival requires that he take flight as quickly as possible in order to avoid predators like foxes and coyotes, as well as other birds of prey. He will need to learn hunting skills as quickly as possible to make it in the wild. Fortunately, he has the best teacher that nature can provide.