Monday, January 01, 2007

No News

I've been patiently waiting while Alice dropped her belly feathers to develop a brood patch to incubate eggs. (Or so I thought.) She dropped this small mountain of feathers, a handful per day, over the past several weeks.
But during this time she got less interested in hooting together and made her irritation known by biting me every time I tried to put my hand on her back.. I started to think her hormones were ebbing and we might not get an egg this year. But those belly feathers kept falling to the point that she often looks like she had a cowlick between her legs since so many feathers are missing.
I've tried to get my fingers up into Alice's abdomen feathers to see if I could feel a brood patch. From what I understand, the skin thickens and becomes filled with blood vessels to warm the eggs. (I've only felt the brood patch of a dead Great Horned Owl.) Of course Alice doesn't like it when I attempt to stick my fingers into her belly feathers, but once she got distracted and I was able to do it. Felt just like bird skin always feels.
Then in the last week in December she dropped her left outer tail feather. Not a good sign. From what I've read, female owls hold off on molting their flight feathers until AFTER they're done incubating eggs. And we don't have an egg here (other than the replica in the photo that Alice isn't interested in.)
Then she dropped the next outer tail feather on her left side. Then one more! She now is missing one quarter of her tail...all on the outer left side. So much for a symmetrical molt, but I suppose she's not exactly exposed to normal light and dark cycles living in the house....
Alice has also started to molt all kinds of body feathers. Every time she does a big rouse (puffing up all of her feathers and shaking like crazy), a small blizzard of feathers goes flying. (This explains the feathers we get in our furnace filter.)
I'm pretty much giving up the ghost on an egg this year, but doesn't that replica egg look nice in the pile of belly feathers she lost in December? But then again, I've learned that there's a heck of a lot I don't know about Great Horned Owls, and for all I know Alice could be right on schedule to lay an egg in a month. Only time will tell, but I'm not holding my breath.

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