Up in a tree in Prospect Park, two young, fuzzy great horned owlets are hooting in their parent’s nest.
But who gives a hoot?
Prospect Park’s many birders and the Audubon Center do.
According to Michele Dreger, a volunteer for the Audubon Center and a tour guide for the Brooklyn Bird Club, the two young hooters are the first to be hatched in the park in at least 100 years.
She said that the Audbon Center’s records, which go back 100 years and keep track of the park’s bird population and species, show that great horned owls have never hatched in Prospect Park.
Patch found out about the owlets thanks to a tip from AnimalTourism.com. The website published a couple of articles this week with pictures of the young owls fluttering about in their nest (the location was asked to be kept a secret to keep them safe) and the news that they are the first to have successfully hatched in a century.
The owls that spawned the new additions have been in the park for the past four years, according to The New York Times, and tried to lay eggs last year unsuccessfully.
The great horned owls are one of North America’s biggest and strongest of their species and according to The Times, have populations in Van Cortlandt Park, the New York Botanical Garden and Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Although Dregers hasn’t yet seen the owlets, she is very happy to hear the news.
“I’m so excited about them and I am really looking forward to seeing these alleged owlets,” Dreger said, who leads the Brooklyn Bird Club’s tour, “” every Sunday in the park. “Once these owls start jumping out on the branches and you can watch them, I am really looking forward to seeing them fly on their own and look for food.”
She said that the owlets still cannot fly or fend for themselves, so their parents feed them for the time being. However, Dreger said come late May or June, the owlets will start fledging, which means they leave the nest and start to learn how to fly, hunt and eat on their own.
But if you think she will show them to you while on a tour, think again.
“One of the basic rules is if you see an owl, you don’t want anybody to know about them,” Dreger said, explaining that keeping the owl’s nest location a secret is the first rule of birding.
She said the rule is meant to protect the raptors from humans who may not have the same positive and respectful attitude towards them as birders do and may cause them harm.
The Prospect Park Alliance is also excited about the rare nesting of the owl family.
“As home to the nation’s first urban Audubon center, which just celebrated its in Prospect Park, we are obviously delighted,” Paul Nelson, a spokesman for PPA said, explaining that they hope park goers do not disrupt the rare birds’ quality of life. “And we hope that the public will not disturb them.”