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While the temperatures are still frigid and snow covers the ground, great horned owls are already looking ahead toward spring and the birth of new chicks.
At Greenbelt's Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Rowley, great horned howls are beginning their courtships with hooting at dusk.
While males hoot year-round, the distinctive hoo-hoo hooooo hoo-hoo hoot of females is only heard during mating season.
“If the male catches her fancy, they seal the deal by both bowing and hooting at each other; the birds will remain mates for years or even the rest of their lives,” according to Audobon.org.
The pair (the female is larger than the male) will then mark a territory that other breeding great horned owls are not allowed to enter.
Great horned owls will nest in many places, often taking over nests that were abandoned by other birds.
In the east, they usually don't have more than two chicks. The eggs incubate for about a month and while they can fly after a week, the chicks are not independent for 5 to 10 weeks.
If you spot a great horned howl nesting, keep your distance. These fearless birds will fly at anything that threatens and possibly strike.
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