When Nicola pointed me to Alessondra’s Great Horned Owl Cam a month or so ago, I was hooked.  Every day I would watch the live USTREAM video feed of the mother and father owl feeding and taking care of their two owlets:  Tigris and Teegra.  Every few days it seemed like the owlets grew twice their previous size. It was a magnificent experience watching how Great Horned Owls raise their own.

Sadly, we all knew the day was coming when Teegra and Tigris would fledge, and leave the nest, and their mother and father, and each other — and us! — forever.

Teegra’s beautiful fledge was caught live on camera.  The owlet was perfectly perched on the balcony railing for a long while waiting for the sun to set and a safer first flight wind to set in and, watching the crouch — and the inevitable first liftoff — brought tears to your eyes because you knew this leaving had to be even though you didn’t really want it to happen.  You selfishly wanted them to remain owlets forever just because they were so much fun and had such great, distinctive, personalities of their own.

Here’s the stills sequence of the video fledge.  It all happens in less than a second.  What’s left behind is a yellow tulip silently swaying in the wind from Teegra’s wings:

I watched that fledge over and over and tried to find some happiness in the dusk of Oklahoma City because I was so sad the whole experience was finished. I was fulfilled and empty at the same time for a long while.

I realized Teegra’s fledge is precisely what we are each required to do every day. We are forced to leave behind our human regret, and the mistakes of our past, and the broken promises — and the failed relationships that tend to anchor us under — and we are expected to wait for the wind and the sky to be just right as we crouch, and fly forward, to brilliantly meet the horizon.

Have you fledged today?


  1. Those shots are marvelous, especially the placement of the tulip… We can find so much symbolism in that first triumphant liftoff.

    Do you have any new video feeds in mind now that you’ve finished this one? I’m tempted to find some for myself.

    1. Yes, the OKC Owl Cam was operated by real pros. They would move the cameras often as the owlets aged and moved around. We never wanted for a better angle to see them. That took a lot of time and dedication.

      The lonesome tulip in the end is the perfect way to end on an action:


      I confess I was spoiled by the Great Horned Owls. I looked at other Ustream animal feeds — but none could touch the intimacy of OKC. I’ll have to keep looking!

  2. David,

    Thanks for the beautiful article. It’s worth an occasional re-reading to remind ourselves what we should aspire to do daily! 🙂 I certainly hope I managed fledging today.

    1. It was a sad article to write, Gordon. We were face-to-face with the whole family for so many weeks and now they’re all gone! Such an emptiness lingers… but that’s the way of life in the wild and in our own lives. We are, in the end, on our own. Every day we must take that leap of faith off the edge of the balcony into the wanton unknown.

  3. I so knew that these beautiful owls would be used somewhere along the line, I salute you for using them in such a beautiful evocative way.

    1. Yes, I knew these owls would appear here in some way, but I couldn’t find the right angle. Celebrating them in the nest was the easy way that didn’t resonate the experience deeply enough. Writing about them when they’re gone was hard, but a more natural answer, because we all must fledge all the time in a modern, humanistic world. We also have to learn how to face the empty balcony and find some comfort in the one remaining tulip.

  4. I think it ties in well with what we have discussed here recently – it is a leap of faith to launch ourselves every day , be it on to work, school or the great out doors.

    Empty nest syndrome also gets most of us at some time – some of us see our kids leave home – some of us lose our pets and you must get a sample each time a class graduates.

    1. Right! Teegra fledges her way, and we fledge by taking away delight, and not sadness, in seeing her fly on her own. It’s a tenuous process of knowing when to let go and when to stick around!

  5. Lovely. I blinked and missed it… I guess that is a little metaphorical.
    (Of course I had to rewind to the moment. SMILE.)

    1. Isn’t that the sheer beauty of it? One second there — the next second — gone forever! That was such a shock because we spent weeks watching them hatch and grow and roam around the balcony/nest. They were slow and didn’t do much, but they were always THERE because they had no other way out.

      The last five days or so were fascinating as mom would leave them alone in the nest all day long. The two would cuddle together in the cold wind and look for her in the sky. She was always nearby to keep an eye on them, and when she’d fly over, they would track her and sometimes hoot out to her. She would visit early in the morning and late at night to feed them mice and fresh baby rabbit kills. The planter/nest was referred to as the “boneyard” — because of all the dead carcass meals left behind… there are photographs of it on their Facebook page.

      So when the fledge happened — and we blink and miss it — the first reaction is, “Hey! Come back here!”

      1. Amazing story. I have been watching a pair of crows around our house for the past year. They had a baby last year, it was cool to watch them care for eachother and the baby. but I didn’t have front row seats to the nest, I saw the baby after it was out and about. I am going to pay closer attention to this family this year as they are quite interesting. have only seen the one lately – dad perhaps? maybe mom is nesting? They were having a go a little while ago in the yard, so I’m guessing… We shall see. I certainly hoped nothing happened to her.

        1. Love your crow story! I, too, hope everything is okay!

          Yes, we were actually in the nest with the owls, so everything was super close-up and fascinating. With the owls, Dad would fly in during the day with fresh kills and feed mom and she’d then feed the babies. He never stayed long. Mom was big and bruising and Dad was lithe and smaller. Quite a beautiful pair together!

          1. So beautiful to witness something like that. Even more beautiful is that people take the time to observe and appreciate.

  6. Right on, twistnpout! The fact that the People Owl Family take the time and effort to live stream the nest is just wonderful. Opens up a whole new world of education and understanding!

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