Our BaBar BuBos
By the BaBar facility, a small family of Bubo virginianus has moved in. Better known as Great Horned Owls, the mated pair built a nest last January about 50 to 60 feet off the ground on End Station B.
SLAC Naturalist Kirk Stoddard learned about the nesting owls from a chain of people saying "did you see." Stoddard said that when he went to check on the owls, a few engineers in the area were looking through the binoculars and saying, "I think that's a cat on the ledge."
Great Horned Owls are distinct in the owl family for their pointed tufted ears, which make them look very much like a cat in silhouette. When the female is nesting, she lays down flat with just her head sticking up, which accentuates the similarities.
Both parents are attentive to the nest, with the female hatching the eggs and staying with the young, while the male hunts and protects the nest. Great Horned Owls generally have from two to four eggs. In our SLAC family owls, Stoddard has seen at least two chicks in this hatching. The chicks are now starting to come out from mama's wings and we can see them with binoculars and high-res photos. Soon, the little ones will start actively wandering around the ledge to start their flying lessons, and we can expect to see them in the air in mid-April.