Ennis Owl Cam draws viewers from throughout the world

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Addictive livestream of nesting great horned owl gives viewers a chance to see owl couple raise up their babies.

Perched over 30 feet up in a tree and brooding over two young ones, a momma great horned owl is getting attention from all over the world thanks to the efforts of a longtime Ennis couple.

Video from the nesting site in Ellis County 30 minutes south of Dallas shows all the everyday work of a nesting pair of owls, from the momma almost unceasingly sitting on her eggs to eventually the pair’s tireless task of feeding the young chicks and keeping them safe from enemies.

The Ennis couple, who wish to remain private, have made the live video available for everyone to view on YouTube and set up a page on Facebook for an additional forum for viewers to watch the video and interact with each other in what’s become a growing family of fans.

The couple says the video has attracted attention not only from their friends and family, but from viewers in other countries too who check in daily to see if the eggs have hatched, what the young are feeding on and how the owl family is doing overall.

“We have people from all over the world tuning in to see these owls. I mean, Indonesia, Guatemala, South America, Africa — and they’re very interested and really happy to see the owls. So, they like it; we like it, and we’ve given the owls a a little place where they don’t have to worry about a housing development or anything like that,” they say.

The couple set the nest up in 2012 after hearing the unmistakable hoots of great horned owls in their vicinity. Finding tips on how to host owls on the internet, they built a conicular platform out of fencing and sticks and mounted it over three stories high in a tree in their backyard.

They say that while they were building the platform, they were almost certain that no one would take to it but were astonished when the wildlife camera that they mounted to the tree along with the platform revealed a pair of owls looking over the accommodations.

“We spent all day putting this thing up — so we thought, this is not going to happen — we’re not going to get any owls, but you know we’re having fun with the project. Within three hours after we put everything away, put the ladder in the shed and had gone in, the owls were on the nest, looking at the nest and poking the sticks and having a conversation about it — talking to each other, like what the heck is this?” they say.

They didn’t take to the platform that year or the next, but a pair finally did decide to give it a try in 2017, they skipped 2018 but have been coming back every year since 2019.

“The second year that she was here, she laid her first egg. And she was off of it for two days, and it was really cold and we thought oh, this is heartbreaking and terrible — we don’t know what to do, how to feel about this. And then she came back, she had another egg and she sat on them and they both hatched and everything was fine,” they say.

Photo of a great horned owl on a nest.
A great horned owl keeps her eggs warm in Ennis, Texas on a chilly morning in March.

One year of brood was interrupted by a mob of blue jays that knocked one owlet out of the nest when their momma was away, but they placed the baby back onto a limb, and the baby was able to climb back up to the platform and resume feeding when his momma returned.

Typically, the male brings back food while the female incubates the eggs and broods the young. Feedings are a big attraction for viewers, and the livestream shows the owls returning to feed their babies snakes, smaller birds, but mostly mice and rats — a never-ending feeding of countless rodents — which reveals how birds of prey are the best form of pest control around and deserve to be protected. For this reason, the couple entreats the public to absolutely never use rat poison.

“If the male eats poisoned rodents, then when the female is off the nest, the babies are vulnerable. If the male brings a poisoned rodent back, and she feeds it to the babies then we’ve lost all of them. And it’s heartbreaking,” they say.

Ensuring the success of the owls they’ve come to host annually is important to the Ennis couple. They say that when nesting begins, they stay out of their backyard so they don’t spook the family or interrupt feeding time. They also say their neighbors have been equally accommodating and also enjoy having the rat catchers bring up each generation.

The couple says they appreciate the fact that their livestream has brought a little bit of happiness to so many people’s lives all over the planet. The footage of the owls and their successful family rearing effort is reassuring to people who’ve all got their own worries and circumstances. In fact, the couple says they’ve heard back from one viewer who’d lost her husband and was plunged by grief into deep depression.

“She was so heartbroken, she didn’t really leave her house. And she said watching the owls gave her a spot of joy — it helped her get through a rough period. That’s a lovely gift for her,” they say. “Seeing the owls up close makes people connect a little bit more with the natural world. As a society, we’re going so fast; we’re rushing around with our heads down. And frequently, people don’t get a chance to just recognize the beauty that’s around. And if this allows some people the opportunity to connect with that beauty, that would be lovely.”

[Related information: Do this instead of using rodenticide if you have a mice or rat problem.]

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