Driving on County Road 90 near Lookout CA (Modoc County) Leonard and I noticed a young great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) sitting in a tree. Since great horned owls often spend daylight hours dozing in a tree, this juvenile was behaving normally.
Great horned owls lay one to five white eggs in a large stick nest in a tree. They prefer to use the discarded nests of other large birds such as a red-tailed hawk. Great horned owls will also put their nests in tree, cliff or building cavities and will use nest boxes and artificial platforms. These owls breed very early, often laying their eggs in late winter.
The chicks are born helpless and covered with down. After six or seven weeks the youngsters will climb out of the nest while still downy. They do not have the distinctive ear tufts of an adult when they fledge. After ten weeks the young owls can fly quite well. This young great horned owl has lost its down (there may still be some on the breast) but its ear tufts are only beginning to develop. Leonard and I could not find a nest anywhere in the vicinity so assume this owl is already an adept flyer.
Next season we will need to canvas that area more thoroughly. Perhaps I can find a great horned owl nest to watch.