Monday, November 08, 2004

Hormonal Hooting

Well, Alice's hormones are in full swing. I was getting a little worried about her because she didn't start her "hormonal" hooting until a month later than previous years, but Halloween brought the first of the "hormonal" hoots.

So what's a hormonal hoot? It's quite different from her regular hoots. Her posture changes--she leans way forward, cocks her tail almost straight up like a gigantic House Wren, and her hoot is a strict basic hoot with no variation, and it's a flat monotone without the usual inflections.

I think I may have turned her on this accident. One of the wild "neighbor" owls was up hooting fairly close to the house around 6 AM this morning. I wanted to try to record him, but he shut up when I opened the window. So I figured I'd hoot some to see if he'd start up again. He didn't, but Alice started doing some quiet chitters from the hallway (I was in her room, hooting out the window. Yes, I admit I'm more than a little weird.) They seemed to be nice, content chitters, which I've never heard her do before while I was hooting. Usually she hoots with me, or she doesn't say anything.

When I gave up on the neighbor male, I went into the hallway to check on Alice. Her pupils slowly dilated until they were quite large, even though I had the hall light on. It didn't seem to be an aggressive thing at all...if anything it almost seemed submissive.

I went about my getting-ready-for-work routine, and she went back to her regular scratch-at-the-window-for-attention routine. But by the time I was ready to go to work, she was settled in her nest box, and again her pupils dilated when I came near. I decided to let her play hooky from work for the day.

According to my husband (who works nights), Alice spent most of the day perched right by her nest, which she usually doesn't do. When I came home (late) tonight, she was still perched by her nest. She clucked around in her nest awhile while scratching at the Astroturf lining (we tried sticks before...she just threw them out), and again her pupils dilated.

After a bit of zoning out with enlarged pupils, she hopped out of her nest, and started in on some emphatic hoots (regular hoots with a very loud HOO, HOO, HOO! added to the end), so I started hooting with her. Then she dropped into the hormonal hooting.

We went on for over 15 minutes, but by the way she was looking at something outside in the dark at tree level, I'm pretty sure we called in some-birdy. She kept staring at the same spot and hooting, but if we had a visitor, (s)he didn't say anything. I, of course, couldn't see a danged thing out in the dark, so after Alice had finished hooting I resorted to a spotlight. I still didn't see anything. So I guess I was in the dark in more ways than one.

Alice is now 7.5 years old. Yes, she's a full-blown human imprint and thinks I'm her mate. But we haven't had any eggs to date. I figure it will probably happen sooner or later. In some ways I look forward to it as a chance to see more behaviors, but in some ways I dread it, because I'm kind of clueless as to what my exact role is, and I'm pretty sure if I don't do the right thing at the right time, she's going to let me know in a less-than-tactful manner.

Hormonal hoot posture--body horizontal, tail almost vertical, and throat poofed out.