Watch Live: Great Horned Owl Adopts Abandoned Egg In Oklahoma Eagle Nest

Thursday, February 7th 2013, 9:48 am
By: Richard Clark

The story of a great horned owl that's taken up residence in a bald eagle nest in eastern Oklahoma has taken a dramatic turn.

In early February, 2013, the owl began incubating an abandoned bald eagle egg in a nest that has a camera installed on it.

Then, on Thursday, February 7, 2013, the owl laid its own egg in the nest, followed by a second a few days later. That meant the eagle was incubating two of its own eggs and an eagle egg that will never hatch.

On the night of February 13, 2013, the bald eagle egg and one of the owl eggs disappeared. The researchers at the Sutton Avian Research Center aren't sure what happened to them. They say a predator could have gotten them or they could have broken.

They say it's possible the rotten eagle egg broke, causing a sticky mess that could have caused it and the owl egg to adhere to the owl's feathers, and she unintentionally carried them off when leaving the nest.

It sounds unusual, but the center's cameras actually showed that happening to a bald eagle several years ago.

See The Live Bald Eagle Nest Camera Page.

The nest is located near Vian, Oklahoma in the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge. It's one of the nests selected by researchers at the Sutton Avian Research Center in Bartlesville for installation of live cameras.

Visit the Sutton Avian Research Center's page.

The Sutton Center has used the cameras on nests near Vian and Stillwater for years to study bald eagles raising their young and to share the live pictures with a worldwide audience.

This year has illustrated the challenges the researchers face when studying nature.

A tree holding a nest and a camera in the Stillwater area collapsed in a wind storm near the end of 2012. Luckily no eagles had laid eggs in that nest.

A pair of eagles laid two eggs in the nest near Vian, but researchers say other adult eagles invaded the nesting pair's territory causing the pair to spend too much time off the nest and killing the eggs. 

One of the eggs disappeared, but then a great horned owl showed up during the week of February 3, 2013, and began incubating the other one. A few days later, it laid its own eggs.

The researchers say it's an interesting phenomena, but not surprising. At first, they thought the owl's incubation instinct was activated by the sight of the eagle egg.

"Female birds (and some males) are stimulated to incubate eggs, when influenced by hormones, and often may incubate almost any eggs in the vicinity when in that hormonal condition," according to the researchers.

But now it's become clear the owl has plans of her own. The researchers say owls usually have clutches of two eggs. They're incubated by the female, with the male delivering food.

Incubation typically takes 30-37 days, and the young begin leaving the nest at six weeks of age but continue to be fed for some time.

In the meantime, her presence offers a rare chance to see a great horned owl up close and in a completely natural state.