Of all the things you associate with this time of year, the start of bird courtship in the outdoors probably isn’t one of them.skalicky-Great Horned owl2 copy

It’s true we’re several days from winter’s official start (Dec. 21), which means we’re several months away from hearing melodious calls of cardinals, robins and other well-known songbirds.

However, it’s equally true that the multi-noted “hoot” you may hear on an evening walk is a clear indicator that the Ozarks’ annual cycle of avian romance is beginning.

Here, as is the case in many parts of the U.S., great horned owls are the opening act of bird courtship. They are among North America’s earliest nesting birds. Nesting occurs in January or early February in Missouri, but this is preceded by a prolonged period of calling by the males.

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