Owls of Asheville

Owls of Asheville

Great horned owl fledgling at UNCA Campus. Photo by Joye Ardyn Durham

Protecting birds means protecting the natural environment, which also protects the long-term quality of human life. The University of North Carolina at Asheville recently delayed construction of its new student housing out of respect for a nesting Great Horned Owl family near the Botanical Gardens.

“It is unusual for a Great Horned Owl to nest so closely to humans,” says James Poling, certified naturalist and active member of the local Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society (EMAS), a nonprofit working to conserve birds and the habitat on which they depend. “It provided a unique opportunity for visitors to watch the young as they grew in the nest and then fledged out onto the branches before they could fly. From laying eggs to fledging takes about 75 days, a long time for the adults to settle in one place.”

In the woodlands and forests of our region, Great Horned Owls are one of the top predators. Because they are mostly nocturnal hunters, we don’t see these owls frequently, even though they are common throughout most US states, Canada and Mexico.

With about 1,500 local members, EMAS sponsors area bird walks, maintains Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary, promotes bird-friendly plants for backyards and gardens, and encourages local conservation of the natural environment. Learn more at

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