Great Horned Owls Take Over Laundry Basket As Nest

A curious sight greeted a naturalist recently. Perched high in a tree, a family of Great Horned owls was nesting in a laundry basket.

The green plastic basket was filled with twigs and branches and peeking out from it were two owlets and a mom and dad owl. But how did a laundry basket get up into the branches and why would owls be nesting in it?

Brandon Williamson of Vancouver Island, BC had seen a photo of the owls in the basket on social media and never heard of such a thing before so went to check it out. He and a friend eventually located the nest and he snapped a few photos and shared them on Twitter.

The family of owls were quite comfortable in their makeshift nest.

“We essentially tried to investigate and then we had a feeling that it was in a certain area,” Williamson told CHEK News. “Then we went to that spot and we were quite excited to see the bit of turquoise up in the tree that signals that we were in the right spot.”

Ann Nightingale, a board member with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, told CHEK News that Great Horned owls don’t make their nests, they take over existing ones and because of this behavior birders have begun to make nests from laundry baskets to try and attract the birds.

“The truth is that most owls do not build their own nests, they take over the nests or suitable nesting accommodation that they come across,” Nightingale told the Canadian news station. The owls will take over nests from all kinds of birds – crows, hawks, ravens. They are great opportunists. But if these nests fall apart, birders or wildlife rehabilitators will sometimes try to replace them. Hence the laundry baskets.

Jerry Goldner shared a video on YouTube of two owlets in a basket. He wrote, “These owlets possibly lost their original nest and were replaced in the tree in a nest basket (a laundry basket in this case, securely anchored to the tree). They can be reared by their own parents from this nest, which is win/win for everyone. In some cases a proper nest basket like this will be used for years by returning parents. A local wildlife rehabilitator can assist with getting healthy young back with healthy parents.”

Lindsay Wildlife Experience also shared a video of a baby being returned to a tree in a basket and wrote, “This great horned owl was found on the ground after falling from it’s nest on a golf course in San Ramon CA. Staff from Lindsay Wildlife Museum treated the owl for some minor scrapes and bruises and then successfully returned the owl to an artificial nest at the same location. The owls parents were seen feeding and caring for it shortly after.”

Nightingale shared that if someone does choose to build an owl nest they need to be patient as it can take several years before an owl chooses a nest.

She also cautioned that people should be responsible and maintain the nest if they decide to set one up as plastic and other man-made materials deteriorate just like natural materials do. Not doing so could hurt the birds. She said, “Anytime that you do anything to attract birds to your yard, you also have to be responsible for what happens to them when they get there.”

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