Hilton Head’s famous great horned owls are growing fast. Here’s what they’re up to

Two months ago, Hilton Head Island’s most talked about great horned owl siblings hadn’t yet hatched.

The world watched in anticipation as a camera affixed nearby the nest captured the two — named HH5 and HH6 — emerging from their shells in early February. Now, the owlets that once looked like puffs of soft cotton huddled together are unrecognizable.

They’re broad-chested, with gray, brown and white shades of banding on their feathers. HH5 and HH6 have piercing yellow eyes, and their ear tufts are beginning to show. Still considered juvenile owlets, an untrained eye could mistake them for their parents — Bayley and Joshua.

Since the pair were born, Bayley and Joshua have been star parents. Through the live stream camera, which is monitored by the Hilton Head Island Land Trust and called the Raptor CAM, Bayley has been seen fending off predators, and protecting and feeding her babies. Joshua’s stocked up what the land trust calls it the “prey pantry.” He’s brought home varied meals for his family — among them a rabbit, a mouse and a snake.

HH5 and HH6, great horned owls who live in the Raptor CAM nest, perched together on Monday, April 1, 2024.
HH5 and HH6, great horned owls who live in the Raptor CAM nest, perched together on Monday, April 1, 2024.

Most recently, the parents have had to come to terms with their kids’ new independence.

On Monday, both HH5 and HH6 fledged. To the non-bird world, it means they flew the coop. Initially fledging separately, the siblings reunited on a branch close to their nest that evening.

“They are flying so well,” the land trust gushed in a Monday Facebook post. “We won’t have them much longer but enjoy all the time we have left.”

Despite taking flight, HH5 and HH6 are still dependent on mom and dad and will be for many months as the parents supply their rapidly growing owlets with food. HH5, the older sibling who may be a bit bossy, made it abundantly clear mom’s help was needed.

Great horned owl Bayley staring into the Raptor CAM and huddled by her owlets, HH5 and HH6, on March 24, 2024.
Great horned owl Bayley staring into the Raptor CAM and huddled by her owlets, HH5 and HH6, on March 24, 2024.

After fledging Tuesday, the siblings made it back to the nest for a long-anticipated dinner. But when Bayley came in the nest tree to check on her kids, HH5, perched on the same branch as mom, took flight and kicked Bayley in the side with its talons. It was a swift motion that “lets (mom) know they are hungry,” the land trust explained.

The night before, Bayley swooped in with a rodent dinner and wrangled in her kids. HH5 spared no time, eating the whole prey and sparing none for mom and HH6.

“HH5 was adamant on who was going to get dinner,” the land trust said.

To watch Bayley, Joshua and their juvenile owlets, go to https://www.hhilandtrust.org/eagle-cam.