Great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) begin preparing for nesting very early in the year – during the January thaws or warming days of early February. During this time great horned owls are very noisy, calling to each other and defending their territories with prolonged hooting. The hooting is particularly frequent just before egg laying. Each night Leonard and I love to listen to them in the cottonwoods outside our window.
The female great horned owl is larger than the male, however, the male has a larger voice box and deeper voice. When calling together the difference in pitch between the sexes can be easily distinguished.
Great horned owls are monogamous. The two members of a pair establish a territory (about 2.5 sq km) and maintain it throughout the year. Although found together during the breeding season, the couple roost separately when not courting or raising young.
Great horned owl eggs are laid very early, often six weeks or more before other hawks nest. The eggs are usually laid in the remodeled nests of other birds such as hawks, crows or herons. Great horned owls will also use cavities, ledges and human-supplied platforms to raise their young.
I assume these two great horned owls, photographed in a tree in Lookout CA (Modoc County), are a pair preparing to lay their eggs. Hopefully they will choose a nesting site I can continue to observe.
Thanks to Rockie for giving me a “heads up” that the owls had returned.