Great-Horned Owl Siblings

Two great horned owlets sit side by side on a tree branch. Both have yet to fledge and are awaiting food from a parent.
Two great horned owlets sit side by side on a tree branch. Both have yet to fledge and are awaiting food from a parent. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-7D. ISO 640. Evaluative metering 0 EV: 1/400 sec. at f/8

I photographed these two great-horned owlets this past weekend, as they cuddled up together on a branch. They had not fledged, making them easy to find close to their nest. Both parents were still around (as was a third sibling), performing the duties of food gathering for their new brood. Occasionally, the left most owl would become unsettled, and scoot closer to the other, even though his body was already pressed up tight against its sibling. Just as the owl on the right was drifting off to sleep, here comes his brother (or sister), snuggling up close.

After a few minutes, the alert owl decided that it wasn’t time for sleeping, but for a grooming session. With that, he began to lick the other owl’s feathers, rearranging them just so.

While sitting side-by-side, one owlet begins to groom its sibling. Neither owlets have fledged.
While sitting side-by-side, one owlet begins to groom its sibling. Neither owlets have fledged. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-7D. ISO 400. Evaluative metering 0 EV: 1/250 sec. at f/8

This continued for quite a while, and I eventually left to see what else I could find. When I returned to the owls, it looked as though the sleepy owl had left and found a quieter place to roost, leaving the alert owl to sit and stare at the world.

A young great-horned owl that has yet to fledge perches on a tree branch, awaiting food from a parent
A young great-horned owl that has yet to fledge perches on a tree branch, awaiting food from a parent. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-7D. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1/3 EV: 1/400 sec. at f/8

I was lucky that these young owls had not yet learned to fly. While they’ll still remain dependent on their parents after fledging, they will be much harder to find among the many trees in the area.