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      Nature Report: Nesting Raptors

      Sailing in at dawn on silent wings, a great horned owl lands on the edge of her nest in a towering mesquite.

      Great horned owls are among the earliest nesters in the South Texas wildlands, and sometimes they do not even wait until the first of the year.

      One reason they get such a head start is that it takes so long to raise their brood.

      An entire month was invested incubating the eggs these two fluffy white chicks emerged from.

      It will likely be another thirty plus days before fledging, and they will still require weeks of care as they learn to hunt on their own.

      Soaring in with a twig to add to her nest, the white-tailed hawk is also an early nester.

      White-tailed hawks are not in quite the rush as great horned owls, and usually wait until early March before beginning.

      But, like great horned owls and other birds of prey, they will spend more than a month rearing their young.

      Harris's Hawks have been known to nest as early as December, but often wait until March or April.

      In times of prolonged drought, raptors will sometimes delay their nesting until rains bring the promise of a healthy prey base.

      Aplomado falcons prefer the tops of spiny yuccas on the coastal prairie, and tend to nest later in the spring, particularly if dry conditions persist.

      With nesting season just getting underway, timely rainfall would certainly benefit the more than a dozen birds of prey that make their home in deep South Texas.