The four baby owls at Stow Lake are growing up fast

Bird watchers are having a field day out at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, where they’ve been keeping a close watch on a group of baby owls. A friend snapped the pic above of them hanging out at Strawberry Hill on Wednesday, enjoying the warm sunshine. She nearly missed them because they camouflage so well with the trees. “I only noticed them because another woman had her telephoto lens trained on the tree branch.”

Back in early April, the baby owls were still spending their time in the nest, located up high in a pine tree near the top of Strawberry Hill. Young owls will leave the nest after four to five weeks and will fly well by about nine weeks.

The owls are now about 4 months old; experts estimate the first of the four was born in early March. It’s a good sign that all four are still being spotted. Golden Gate Audubon Society member Dan Murphy told The Examiner that “all of the babies are unlikely to survive. Many die in their first year, sometimes being pushed out of the nest by their larger siblings or mother if food is scarce.”

Given the number of gophers, mice, etc. that I’ve seen in Golden Gate Park, I think there’s a good chance all four owls will grow up big and strong.

Sarah B.

A shot of the owls from June 2011. Photo by dnabybday

A shot of the owls from June 2011. Photo by dnabybday


  1. Adorable! I want one. But, realistically, I suspect they would not play well with the pet rats in my backyard….

  2. Although there may be plenty of food sources in the park, this doesn’t actually ensure survival for all four birds. All of these food items will do their best to not get eaten!

    Good luck little owls!

  3. great shots! thanks for sharing… we do indeed live in a very special place. I am worried that the New Mexico souvenir/restaurant chain that Rec & Parks wants to take over the historic boathouse at Stow Lake is going to repel birds like these owls from nesting there. Rec & Parks has made it clear they don’t care about nighttime noise, nighttime lighting, increase in exhaust/fumes… In spite of clear written opposition by both the Audubon Society and Sierra Club, Phil Ginsburg at Rec & Parks wants to bring in this CHAIN, into this special place we all love. In Nov. at the ballot, vote to protect our parks from further privatization and ask your supervisor to fire Ginsburg now!

  4. This is a post about owls, not about the Stow Lake boathouse. So please don’t use this as a forum for that. Thank you.

    Sarah B.

  5. Amazing this sort of wildlife exists in the middle of an urban city. There are also a lot of hawks around here, seems like they have tripled in numbers maybe the owls will too!

  6. San Francisco has always had an incredible amount of wildlife diversity! Thanks to Park Presidio and Sunset boulevard, the Presidio (GGNRA north), Golden Gate Park, and Lake Merced area are all connected, providing incredible habitat for so many critters.

  7. Wow that spoiled the post more than the boathouse guy.

  8. @Todd1Sf – You didn’t see the comment I had to remove (which prompted my comment) 😉

  9. Great photos! So that’s where baby owls come from. Good luck to them!
    We occasionally see owls on Mt. Sutro — one favorite hangout is in the dense eucalyptus forest along the Nike Road. I recently saw a healthy amount of fresh guano and gray, furry owl pellets (mice bones, etc.) about halfway up the paved one-lane road between Aldea Housing and the summit garden. We’ve seen a couple owls by daylight above the trails over the years. More about the trails and habitat at http://www.sutrostewards.org.

  10. If you love birds you would support Audubon and Sierra Club who have been involved in the boathouse debacle all along and based upon their review of the plans decided to take an official stance against the Rec & Park plans… but sadly Phil Ginsburg, at Rec & Parks, doesn’t seem to have any trouble putting wildlife and flora second to his ambitious backroom deals with our parks!

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