A great horned owl minds her three owlets

Saanich owl family lands online reality show

Great horned owls raise owls in planter outside office building near Tillicum area; Hancock Wildlife Foundation helps set up webcams

The big mama shoots me a death glare – her scowling amber eyes never leave mine as three little puffballs tuck into her chest.

You can’t sneak up on an owl, and this one is probably aware of every conversation and keyboard clack in the building where she’s made her home.

It’s unusual behaviour, but two great horned owls have decided to nest in a concrete planter box under a window, four storeys off the ground.

Where North Saanich had its famed eagle cam, the Tillicum area of Saanich now hosts live-streaming webcams broadcasting the daily drama of an owl family.

So far, much of the action is mom doting over her three down-covered owlets, while papa delivers a steady diet of rodents and birds after dark.

“It rare to have a nest situated next to a window where there’s a lot of activity going on,” said Jeff Krieger of Alternative Wildlife Solutions, an animal control company based in Metchosin. “Usually they take over nests of crows or red tailed hawks. Here they took over a planter. It’s a strange spot. It’s quite unique.”

Krieger, a volunteer at the Wild Animal Rescue Centre (Wild ARC) in Metchosin, first got the call from staff at the building, who were concerned the mother owl was injured.

”I went and took a look and put two plus two together and found she was sitting on three eggs,” Krieger said. The owlets hatched over Feb. 13 to 15 and are now in transition from down to feathers.

Wild ARC asked the precise building location not be identified to keep people away from the nest.

Great horned owls are common for Greater Victoria, but as nocturnal hunters that tend to nest in rural and forest areas, they aren’t that visible. A pair hatching their brood next to a building and below a window is almost unheard of, and allowed for Krieger to install three webcams (including one with infrared), in partnership with the Hancock Wildlife Foundation.

Krieger, a specialist in raptors, expects the great horned owl family to stay in place for another six to eight weeks as the owlets gain their footing. Their mother will eventually leave the nest for longer periods and join in the hunt with their father.

If the pair survive into next year and their planter breeding spot is successful, there’s a good chance they’ll return next season.

“This is an opportunity to show people what really happens in nature,” Krieger said. “It’s an opportunity to watch nocturnal animals feed their young.”

See hancockwildlife.org under Live Cameras, and the cameras labelled Victoria Wild ARC owls.

editor@saanichnews.com