PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Who made this wise move? Owls choose Estero High for their nest

A family of great horned owls has set up housekeeping on a birding platform, usually used by ospreys and other raptors, at Estero High School.
Andrea Melendez
A family of great horned owls. Mom owl and two babies keep an eye out for Dad and dinner. The family has set up housekeeping on a birding platform usually used by ospreys and other raptors at Estero High School.

School choice in Lee County was never meant to work like this.

A family of great horned owls has decided that a birding platform on the athletic field at Estero High School on Williams Rd. is the perfect place to raise a family.

Mom and dad owl, and two fuzzy owlets, can be seen peeking over their beaks at the edge of the platform most days.

Estero High School principal Mike Amabile said he was just notified of the birds this week after WGCU reached out to Lee schools officials.

"You guys brought the news to us," Amabile said.

The school official said he has sent out a message to the Estero staff about the feathered family. While no teachers have mentioned using the birds as a study subject, Amabile said likely someone in the environmental sciences section would be interested.

A Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission official said no report of the school-loving nocturnal raptors has been filed with them.

"When I last checked with staff, we were not aware of any reports," said Senior Officer Adam Brown, an FWC public information officer. Brown added that the FWC doesn't ask people to report owl sightings.

Brown did say the birds were positively identified as great horned owls by the commission's avian conservation coordinator.

Great Horned Owl family takes up nest at Estero High School

"Great horned owls do not build their own nests, but rather take over one that was already built by another bird, typically a red-tailed hawk, osprey, bald eagle, or even crow," Brown said. "They also sometimes nest in cavities, and it is not uncommon for them to take over a nest on a platform like the one (at the school)."

According to the Wild South Florida website, the great horned owl, Bubo virginianus, is among the avian world's fiercest, most aggressive hunters.

The FWC describes the species as Florida's largest owl and a fierce nocturnal hunter. They are capable of taking down all but the largest prey with hawks, skunks, cats, and even other owls all on their menu. They've been known to take on porcupines and are fierce enough to intimidate bald eagles.

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences says Florida is home to five resident owl species, meaning they live in the state year-round: Barred, barn, great horned, screech and burrowing.

UF/IFAS described great horned owls as usually 18 – 25 inches tall, with tall ear tufts, and large yellow eyes. Their size, ear tufts, and eyes make them easily recognizable when seen during daylight hours.

They are found throughout Florida and roost in large, messy nests, in tall trees. The female is larger than the male, but the male has a larger and deeper voice box.

We didn't ask Amabile if the school was considering changing the team mascot from the wildcat to the owl.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.