By Hana de Queiroz
Across McCarran from Rancho San Rafael, underneath the huge white N, an abstract turquoise statue stands tall, guiding hikers down a gravelly path to a copse of twisting trees. Camouflaged among the gray-brown branches of these trees is a family of great horned owls with three not-so-tiny owlets. These owls return to this spot to nest every year, making them a spring tradition for local birders and owl enthusiasts. This year, their nest is near the back of the small wood, facing the sunny hills that lead up to the N. As you approach, the baby owls will eye you curiously, before deciding you’re not very interesting and returning to their naps. The parents are likely hidden elsewhere in the trees, and more rarely spotted. Be sure to keep your voice low so as not to scare the babies--after all, they haven’t confidently learned to fly yet, and have no way to escape dangers.
However, the Reno area isn’t home to only one family of wise birds. On the riverside path that leads away from Crissie Caughlin Park, pedestrians pass under the McCarran bridge. It’s easy to miss, but the beams beneath the bridge house a repurposed raven’s nest that is home to at least two baby owls and their parents. Frequent walkers of the path, mainly local homeowners, find great pleasure in checking in on their feathered neighbors.
The baby owls start off their lives very early in the season, as Great-Horned Owls tend to lay their eggs earlier than most other birds. After having been incubated for a little over a month, they pop out as early as mid March. There can be 1 to 4 babies in a nest, but most often there’s two. They take their time in the nest, relying constantly on their parents for 6 whole weeks. After that, they start taking short flights, gradually lengthening their time away from the nest until they gain complete independence.
As warmer days approach, make sure not to miss the opportunity to spend some time with these adorable baby birds. After all, summer is coming, and soon the owlets will be learning to stretch their wings and fly away from home.