Baby Owls Or Owlets - From Egg To Owl
When the female owl meets Mr. Right, the mating and search for a proper nest can begin.
Squatting A Nest
Owls don’t build their own nests. Instead they locate an already existing place that will serve them well. Different species have different preferences. You can find owls living in tree cavities, holes in the ground, barns and abandoned nests of other birds. They have even been found nesting at odd places such as golf courses, baseball fields and airport runways. Owls are resourceful.
Depending on the species, a female owl will lay anything between 1-13 eggs. Most common is 2-5.
The incubation begins as soon as the first egg is laid. The remaining eggs are usually 2–3 days apart until the clutch is complete. During incubation, the eggs are rarely left alone and the female owl develops a brood patch, which is a thin feathered area on her belly. The almost bare skin has a high density of blood vessels that provide a direct source of warmth when resting gently on top of the eggs. After about 32 days’ incubation, the eggs hatch every 2-3 days, usually in the order they were laid (asynchronous hatching).
Since an owl’s eggs hatch over a period of time (up to three weeks), there will be size differences between the nestlings. If there’s limited food supply, the smallest (which are often also the youngest) owlets are at great risk of not surviving.
Short fact: Most baby birds are called chicks, but a baby owl is called owlet.
The Blind Escape
Owlets have a special bump on the front of their beak called an egg tooth. This egg tooth is used to crack and break through the shell, so it can get out. The small owlets are born with their eyes closed and have a thin coat of natal down (soft fluffy feathers). After 10-12 days, they open their eyes and a heavier, second coat of down appears.
Pieces Of Prey And Premier Pellets
The male owl is the provider who hunts down the prey for the family, while the mother stays with their babies. Larger preys are ripped apart and fed to the owlets. Piece by piece. As they grow older, they learn how to swallow the prey whole. This is also when the young owls begin producing their first pellets. An owl’s stomach can’t break down whole animals and therefore needs to cough up (regurgitate) fur, bones and other indigestible parts.
Short fact: Most species of owls are monogamous and stay mates for a lifetime.
Depending on the species, a young owl will stay in the nest for about 6 weeks after hatching. The Barn Owl is already at full adult weight and feathering after only 8-9 weeks. Overall health, food availability, climate, and stress are all factors that determine how quickly an owlet matures.
Short fact: Owls are among the fastest growing vertebrates.
When the youngsters move out, it’s usually not very far. They continue to keep close to mama, papa and siblings. Often in the same tree, or very nearby. It’s common for the parents to continue bringing them food, even after leaving the nest.
It’s fair to say that the transition from a survival-of-the-fittest owlet to a full-grown independent owl is pretty smooth thanks to helicopter parenting and local living.
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