Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Barn Owls Fledging at Eaglecrest

The barn owls began fledge at Eaglecrest on 5/19/13, when the first barn owl decided it was time to leap from the nest. We wondered how fledge would work, since the nest was so tight. The internal diameter of the hole is roughly a foot and a half, yielding a total area of about 1.76 feet (A=pr2) for four to five rapidly growing owls. In general, the birds we watch spend time wingercizing and hopping before fledging, learning about their wings and building some muscle prior to their first flight. But the size of the nest cavity prohibited the young barn owls from getting wing practice in. Would the lack of wingercizing present a problem? The answer appears to be 'No'. After sticking its wing out of the hole and clambering back in, the fledgling owl stuck its feet outside the hole, looked around, lowered its head, and leaped out into the night. This video shows the owl rapidly winging away from the tree, while three or four siblings watch from the hole. Actual fledge happens at 8:35 into the video.

Over the last two nights, we have watched the young owls begin to learn the basics of flying. They hop on branches, clamber up and down the trunk, and spend time practicing on the former canada goose nest, hopping and flying from the trunk to the nest and back again. We've also seen them scanning, moving their heads back and forth as they look at and listen to the world around them. Earlier this year, I was talking to one of my children about her navigational skills. "Mom," she protested, "why would I know how to navigate?  I've lived in the same place my whole life, and I don't drive yet." I think the young owls may be having a similar experience. They've spent their entire lives to date in a small, crowded hole where their wings and directional hearing weren't really needed. They have roughly five weeks of diminishing parental care to learn  flying, pouncing, hovering, hunting, and capturing prey. While flying and hunting are instinctual, proficient flying and hunting must be learned. A few video highlights from the first couple of nights:

According to the Barn Owl Trust, the amount of food each owl receives from its parents diminishes to zero by 14 weeks. There is some disagreement about dispersal, which may or may not happen after 14 weeks. We'll see what this family does.

Not a night owl? I am freeing up video from each night on a daily basis. To watch video, go to  Eaglecrest's Ustream site. Social stream will most likely be open. Click the Video tab just left of the Social  Stream tab above SS to view video.

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