Fall is dead, long live winter! Now lets start talking about spring. In a few short weeks, the first activities associated with spring will begin. Were talking, of course, about the beginning of breeding season for owls, some of which will begin to establish territories and nesting sites by the end of January.
Minnesota has twelve species of owls: barn, barred, boreal, burrowing, great gray, great-horned, northern hawk, long-eared, saw-whet, eastern screech, short-eared and snowy. Owls do not construct nests from scratch but rather modify an existing nest that was built by another bird. Larger owls, like the great-horned, usually nest in stick nests, while others nest on the ground (snowy, short-eared). Other owls nest in tree cavities or even holes in the ground.
The great-horned is the only owl found throughout the state and it is the first bird to establish a nest and to lay eggs. The timing of egg laying correlates with the arrival of spring so that prey are numerous and available at the time when the owl eggs hatch and the young require plenty of food. Basically, the eggs hatch about the time when the snow is melting.
With mating season at hand, its a wonderful time to venture out to listen for owl calls. Owls call to attract a mate and to establish and reinforce territories. At this time of year in the Twin Cities area, the great-horned, the eastern screech, and the barred owl can be heard calling. The calls for these and many other owls can be heard at The Owl Pages web site.