Monday, June 27, 2005

Look Mom, No Tail!

Alice is well into her molt, and our house and the nature center are well stocked with loose feathers.

A couple of days ago Alice dropped the last of her 12 tail feathers. She dropped the first one on May 18, so her longest tail feather is only about half grown in right now. This leaves Alice looking kind of silly.

I'm not sure how normal it is for a Great Horned Owl to have NO fully grown tail feathers for a time, but I remember seeing photos of a tail-less Bubo, (the owl featured in Bernd Heinrich's book "One Man's Owl.")

Alice has never lost all her tail feathers at once like this before. She normally has retained at least her two central tail feathers while the rest were regrowing, then lost the central feathers. But she's also been exposed to more unnatural light in other years since we used to bring her downstairs in the evenings on a regular basis.

Looking back on her tail molts in previous years, it doesn't seem like there's a lot of rhyme or reason to her molt (so far anyway.) Even the sequence of feathers drop is only somewhat similar from year to year. Maybe it'll have to be a lifetime study before I can draw any conclusions.... But maybe I won't be able to draw any conclusions since she'll always be exposed to some unnatural light.

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