Owls in the suburban web of life

Out here in our neck of the Colorado Front Range, it’s been a good year for great horned owls.  Two owl families set up shop within a few minutes’ walk from home.  One was in a nest hole that’s been used in past years, but the one shown here used a new site in a broken tree top.  Dinner for the owlets included rabbits as well as snakes, voles, and doubtless other critters.

The owls draw quite a crowd at times, indeed often more than a half dozen people, along with their dogs, and cameras of various sizes. There were experts with huge lenses, who seemed like they were out there several times a day, and casual dog-walking (but also camera-toting) visitors like myself.  When a lot of people converged on the owl site, it got harder to get a good camera angle, but it became a festive occasion on its own account.

Great horned owls have been increasing in Colorado. I had certainly never seen so many of them until I moved here. Even outside the spring breeding season, there are a few times when I saw several adults just on a casual walk through the neighborhood. The other thing we have a lot of are rabbits. At times, it seems almost every lawn has a rabbit in full view; it’s like an all-you-can-eat rabbit bar. So, I have assumed that this partly explains the abundance of owls.  But according to the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas, the increase of great horned owls in Colorado has coincided with a decline of the long-eared owl, likely due to competition.  So, not all the owl species are happy — despite the rabbit bar.