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Various Great Horned Owls in the Presidio

Feb 6, 2019

Presidio Discovery: Watch a Webcam of a Great Horned Owl Nest

Great Horned Owls took over a nest occupied last year by a pair of Red-tailed Hawks.


In 2018, 200,000 viewers watched via live webcam as a pair of Presidio Red-tailed Hawks successfully reared two chicks high up in a Presidio eucalyptus tree. One year later, we had an unexpected plot twist: a pair of Great Horned Owls took over the nest, and laid two eggs of their own.

The situation is not uncommon – it reflects the way animals in the wild often rely on each other for survival. In this case, Great Horned Owls do not build their own nests; rather, they take over the nests of other raptors.

In early February 2019, the owls stopped by at night to inspect the Red-tailed Hawks’ nest while during the day the hawks, unaware of the nightly owl visits, continued to prep the nest for the season. At one point, there was a brief confrontation between the owls and the hawks where it appeared the hawks maintained the nest (see the KPIX 5 News story about the confrontation here). But then during the early hours of February 5, the owls laid an egg in the nest, and on February 9 they laid a second egg.

The Presidio’s YouTube channel went wild, with 100,000 people viewing the action live in the first few weeks alone, and the press has picked up on this fascinating story. A Facebook group focused on this nest even popped up to follow all of the activity. The incubation period for Great Horned Owl eggs is about 30-37 days, and two owlets hatched in March. Also of note: the hawks have back-up nests in the park, which our wildlife ecologists monitor and later found out where the hawks ended up.

Read the press about the owls and their takeover of the nest:

SFGate | Owls Evict Hawks From Presidio Webcam Nest
Curbed SF | Adam Brinklow ​| Owls Take Over the Presidio’s Red-Tailed Hawk Webcam
SFWeekly | Nuala Sawyer | Owl Family Evicts Red-Tailed Hawks from Presidio Nest with a View

Photo Credit: David Assman, Charity Vargas

Stay tuned every year to watch how the nesting season unfolds.