The Wildflower Center’s resident owl

For more than a decade, the Wildflower Center has been home to a nesting pair of great horned owls (Bubo virginianus). Lucky for us — and our guests — the female, who we call Athena, nests in a very conspicuous place, right above the entrance to our Courtyard in the sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri) planter nestled in the north corner. When conditions are right and her eggs hatch into owlets, she provides a rare opportunity to view a wild great horned owl rearing her young.

Disclaimer: We don’t want to ruffle any feathers! Please be aware that the live feed may occasionally display natural behaviors that some viewers may find unsettling. Viewer discretion is advised.

We have partnered with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to bring you the unique opportunity to watch Athena’s progress in real time. Athena’s presence on our property is beloved by our community, and our decision to implement a live feed was taken with great care and consideration. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Their work spans all over the world, hosting livestreams that allow viewers to enjoy and learn about birds in a way that does not impact their nesting habits. See what Athena is up to above!

Athena, the mother owl, in an escarpment live oak tree

Athena, the mother owl, in an escarpment live oak near her nesting site. PHOTO Bill J. Boyd

Owlets in tree

Athena’s 2020 owlets in a tree after fledging. PHOTO Bill J. Boyd


March 1:
Athena arrived to the nest and laid an egg.

March 5:
Athena laid a second egg.

April 4:
First owlet hatched.

April 6:
Second owlet hatched.


March 1:
Athena arrived to the nest.

March 2:
Athena left the nest.

March 3:
Athena returned and laid two eggs.

May 25:
Both owlets fledged.


March 9:
Athena arrived and laid two eggs.

March 22:
Athena abandoned her nest.


Feb. 3:
Athena arrived and laid two eggs

March 25:
Two owlets hatched

April 22:
First owlet fledged

May 2:
Second owlet fledged


Feb. 18:
Athena arrived to the nest and laid two eggs

April 13:
First owlet hatched

April 21:
Second owlet hatched

May 7:
First owlet fledged

May 9:
Second owlet fledged


Feb. 14:
Athena arrived to the nest

April 2:
One egg hatched

May 3:
Owlet fledged


Feb. 9:
Athena arrived to the nest

March 29:
First owlet hatched

April 3:
Second owlet hatched

April 27 – 29:
Both owlets fledged


Feb. 12:
Athena arrived to the nest

March 18:
Owlets began to hatch

March 27:
First owlet spotted

April 4:
Second owlet spotted

April 27:
First owlet fledged

April 30:
Second owlet fledged


Exact dates unknown:
Athena arrived to the nest and laid 3 eggs, all of which hatched successfully. This was the only year she had 3 owlets.


Exact dates unknown:
Athena nested at the Wildflower Center for the first time.

Great Horned Owl Facts

  • Great horned owls are named for their prominent ear tufts (or horns). These “horns” are made up of feathers; they are not ears.
  • The mother and father owls have very different jobs. The mother’s job is to incubate the eggs and to protect and feed the young. The father’s job is to hunt and deliver the prey to his family.
  • How can we tell the male and female apart? Only the females sit on the nest; they have a special brood patch, which is designed to keep the eggs warm. The patch has lots of blood vessels that provide warmth to the eggs.
  • Great horned owls usually lay 2 eggs but can lay up to 4. They lay their eggs over a period of days. The female will begin incubating once the first egg is laid, so the owlets hatch at different times.
  • Adults have a wingspan of four feet but only weigh about five pounds.
  • Great horned owls are very territorial; their territories can range from .1 to 1 square mile.
  • Great horned owls have one of the broadest diets among owls. They will eat scorpions, smaller owls, rodents, rabbits and skunks. They are very opportunistic and generalists when it comes to what they eat.
  • Owls cast pellets. These are made up of the indigestible parts (fur, bones and teeth) from their meal. When an owl eats a small animal, they swallow it whole. Most pellets are cast at roost before their next meal. If you find an owl pellet, you can learn a lot about the owls in your area and what they are eating. Whole skeletons can be put back together after dissecting a pellet. Biologists collect and dissect them to learn about owl diets.

For more information on great horned owls, see All About Birds.



As a self-funded not-for-profit, we depend on donations to fulfill our mission. Support Athena’s habitat with a donation today.

Owl Family Photo Album

All photos by Bill J. Boyd

Bill J. Boyd

Bill J. Boyd

Volunteer Photographer

Bill is a Wildflower Center volunteer and freelance photographer who loves to visually explore life’s beautiful moments. Retired from Texas Instruments in 2000, he needed a hobby and discovered a passion for photography. His main interests are nature, wildlife and civic events. Bill has been photographing Athena and her owlets since 2012 and is often the first to know when she’s arrived each spring. Most of the images you see of Athena and her family are his, and the Center is extremely lucky to benefit from his efforts!