Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fooled by the Owlets

The owlets fooled me. Earlier tonight it looked like there was only one owlet left in the nest. That sent me out on a search (and, if necessary, rescue) mission. I looked everywhere I could think of for that owlet (three or four times), wanting to make sure it had found its way to a safe perch, or, if it hadn’t, to find it and put it on a safe perch. I had no luck finding the owlet, but I found both adults and was dealt a good, solid wallop to the head by one of them, and verbally warned away by the other. Having been walloped, I was sure the owlet had to have left the nest – in my experience, the adults never become so defensive until an owlet has left the nest. So much for experience ... when I returned to the house to write this, I looked at the owl cam’ images and found that both owlets were still in the nest. The previous impression that one was gone was merely caused by one owlet standing in a position that completely blocked the camera’s view of the other owlet. I’m not usually fooled by that, but the owlets stayed in the same position for a full five minutes (at least), and I thought that was too long for both to stay sufficiently stationary to maintain the single-owlet illusion. Show’s you what I know. (Heck, I thought I wouldn’t be attacked for wandering under the nest box tree until an owlet had left the nest. That’s been true every other year, but not this time. Well, owl personalities vary, just like people’s, so it seems that this year at least one of my adults is more defensive than I’m accustomed to. Good for them.)

Now there are two things I probably ought to do tonight. One is to post the pictures of the adults that I took while I was searching for the (not) missing owlet. And the other is to bring down the nest box (the parents really aren’t going to like me after that) and attach the owlet rail, which should make it easier for the owlets to jump from the nest box to a nearby tree limb, whenever they do decide to leave the nest.

Stay tuned.


  1. Alison in Indiana6:52 AM CDT

    I trust you wear a helmet when going out to fool around with birds of prey, like the profis at Departments of Natural Resources do around the nation.
    Helmets are not just for bikers....

  2. Wow ... it so happens that, being a cyclist, I have bicycle helmet that might have been very useful, but it totally failed to occur to me use it. Dang. Compartmentalized thinking – just say “no.”

  3. Alison in Indiana6:57 AM CDT

    You may feel like a fool going out in your own yard with a helmet, but actually it would be exactly the opposite :-)
    Wer Koepfchen hat, schuetzt es. [Whoever has a (good) head (i.e.brains) protects it.]

  4. I used my bicycle helmet last night. I wasn't attacked, so I can’t say how well it worked, but maybe having that weird looking thing on my head made the owls disinclined to attack me. On the other hand, I'v read accounts from owl researchers of dealing with screech owls that not only weren't put off by hats, but were so skilled in their attacks, that they could catch an ear with talons even when that ear was protected by the wide brim of a hat. So, the amount of protection provided by any head gear seems to depend in part on the skills of the owls, and how anxious they are to hurt you.

  5. Our Peregrine banders from the Field Museum have had bicycle helmets CRACKED by peregrine adults POd during bandings. I doubt a dinky screech owl could do that; helmets are always a good idea.