Walking along the road to Baum Lake (Lassen County CA) I noticed an unusual “lump” in a ponderosa pine about 100 feet off the road. Of course, I had to check out if it were simply a trick of angle and lighting, an oddly shaped branch or something more interesting.
A juvenile great horned owl had caught my eye. The youngster permitted me to come quite near and take several pictures before flying to an adjacent tree. When the juvenile moved, an adult great horned owl that was observing from an nearby perch relocated closer to the young owl. I assume the adult owl was a parent. I followed the two owls as they moved three more times then left them to continue their mid-day naps.
The characteristic ear tufts (feathers) that distinguish great horned owls are not developed and are not apparent in young owls. The juveniles are also more buffy colored with less distinct markings than adults.
Great horned owls use their ear tufts as a type of body language. When irritated the great horned owl’s ear tufts lie flat and when the owl is inquisitive the tufts stand upright. This adult great horned owl was obviously annoyed with me. Looking closely at the photograph of the adult, its ear tufts appear flattened.