Saturday, February 22, 2020

News from the Nest

At the Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary


It is bald eagle nesting season and visitors are frequently seen at the Nature Preserve looking confused. People are calling or emailing asking, “Where are Calusa and Herb? Are they nesting? Did they abandon their nest and fly away?” The answer is… Mother Nature had a different plan for the eagle’s nest this year. 

Photos by Frank Steiger | A Great Horned Owl up close.

At this point in time, the eagles would normally be sitting on eggs in their nest, producing eaglets by March. Last September, however, a pair of great horned owls in search for a new home, beat the eagles to the nest and took up residency. Calusa and Herb have occasionally been seen flying in and out of the Preserve and roosting in trees while watching the strangers squatting in their nest. 

The great horned owls do not make their own nests but commonly adopt nests of other large birds. They are the earliest nesting birds in North America and are a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Their hunting activity takes place from dusk to midnight, then again from 4 AM to sunrise. Their clutch size varies from one to four eggs, the incubation period is 30 to 37 days, and the nesting period is 42 days. The average size of an adult great horned owl is 22” with a wingspan of 3’ to 5‘. The females are usually larger than the males. With their fiercely powerful talons, the great horned owls fight off predators and can crush their prey to make it more compact for carrying. 

It currently appears that the great horned owls are sitting on eggs in the eagles’ nest. If they have a successful clutch, it is most unlikely that Calusa and Herb will be using their nest this season. A few years ago, the eagle pair at the Island Country Club Golf Course lost their nest to a pair of great horned owls but the eagles regained that nest the following year. We look forward to the eagles visiting the Nature Preserve over the late spring and summer months as they have for many years, and to their return to the nest in the fall. 

The Nature Preserve is a bird sanctuary with approximately 20 plus bird species on the property. Viewing telescopes for adults and children are onsite so residents and visitors can enjoy viewing bird activity. The eagle cam will be kept live so that great horned owl nesting activity can be viewed on the Nature Preserve’s website. 

Walking paths will be established in the Nature Preserve this spring, and a gazebo for educational gatherings will be constructed during the summer. Commemorative pavers have been installed along the front of the preserve in honor of local residents and visitors. 

The Marco Island Nature Preserve is a 50l (c) (3), non-profit, 100% volunteer organization. Additional information regarding the Preserve, eagle cam, commemorative paver project, or donations may be obtained by visiting the website at www.MarcoIslandNaturePreserve.org. The public is welcome to visit the Nature Preserve at 665 Tigertail Court on Marco Island. 

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