Hardy birds that they are, Great Horned Owls are one of the earliest nesting birds — you can find them on nests in January, February and March, even in northern New England. Eggs are incubated for about a month, typically in March or April with young usually hatching in May or June. The nestlings remain in the nest for six or seven weeks before fledging. Unable to fly until they’re ten or twelve weeks old, the fledglings follow their parents around and continue to be fed and cared for by them until the fall. These two fledglings were sticking close together as they made their raspy begging calls from high in a white pine. Both their calls and the down that was visible on their heads told me that they were this year’s young.
Baby birds like this robin are starting to fledge, and it’s the time of year when we see them on the ground, looking very vulnerable. Often we assume that such a bird has been abandoned, and with all good intentions attempt to “rescue” it and finish raising it ourselves. Young birds recently out of the nest are still cared for by their parents for several days, but the parents aren’t always in sight. Usually one parent is nearby, keeping an eye on its fledglings, feeding them and teaching them survival techniques such as where to find food and water and how to avoid predators – skills humans can’t provide. If a bird has feathers, is hopping around, and has a tail an inch or so long, it has probably fledged and not fallen from its nest accidentally. A good rule of thumb is to watch the bird for at least two hours to see if a parent comes to it before taking it to the nearest bird rehabilitator.