Why wait until spring to fall in love when you can now? Great-horned owls wouldn't have it any other way. While the "love" may be questionable, there's no question breeding season for these large raptors is about to get underway.
Great-horned owls begin to search for mates in winter, nesting as early as January and February and laying eggs in March and April. Here at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, we have irrefutable proof that it's time to start pairing up in the owl world.
For the past five or so winters, a wild female great-horned owl has wooed our educational male great-horned owl, who lives in an outdoor enclosure behind our Wildlife Services building. Every evening at dusk, the female flies to a tree behind our rehabilitation facility, where she perches ... and waits. There, she hoots to our resident male, our male calls back, and soon the two are hooting up a storm.
Take a close look at the photo above and you'll see the outline of the wild female owl, perched in the tree, getting as close as she can to our male in the enclosure below her. In the photo below, our male owl sits on one of his perches in his enclosure.
While these two lovebirds won't have the chance to meet beak-to-beak, they are warming up our winter evenings here at VINS with their endearing, lovelorn hoots.