This is an account of a Great Horned Owl that I (we, at CRC) dealt with a few weeks ago.
In May 1998, we received an orphaned great horned owl brancher (these birds leave the nest before they can fly and move around in the branches, where their parents feed them) - our log number 98-60. He was found thin, on the ground, and by himself at a logging site near Seaside.
At that time, we had a resident great horned owl, Burwell, who was a phenomenal foster mom. Burwell laid eggs every spring (even though housed with another female owl) and was then primed and ready for any orphans we might be unable to renest. She would feed them and protect them (usually from us: Ouch!); if they were very young, she would brood them and keep them warm. When the youngsters were able to fly, we would simply release them here, on our property, and put a feeding platform up on the outside of "mama's" cage. They would call to her and come to the platform for food for months afterwards! We are in good habitat here and there is good habitat in almost every direction they might choose to disperse, as they do well at the rural/urban interface.
Earlier that spring, Burwell had fostered two younger nestlings, who were released here just a few days after 98-60 arrived, so he had "mama" to himself for another month or so. We released him here on July 8th. As the birds become independent, finding their own food, they come back less and less frequently to the feeding platform - usually sometime around October. The same thing happens in the wild, of course, since great horned owls have one of the longest post fledging dependency periods of all the raptors. They have so much to learn!
We band many of our releases - and though getting a 'band return' usually means that bird has died, it is always interesting to see how long they've lived and how far they've traveled. Our 98-60 was found dead in January 2010 - nearly 12 years after his release; and just across Fox Hollow and up Christensen Road! He didn't go far and he lived a respectable length of time for a wild bird. I like to imagine that he was one of the great horned owls we hear and see from time to time on our property.