Monday, December 20, 2010

Updated Cage Layout

We're still in the process of tweaking the cages so that Rusty and Iris feel comfortable in their new permanent home. We added hide boxes in November, so I've added them to the cage layout diagram here. For the most part the owls don't use the boxes, other than to perch on top of one of them. In a way this is means they aren't scared and feeling like they need a place to hide! I suspect the boxes are more likely to get used during the summer when I'm running the lawn mower....

At any rate, the biggest problem has been Iris hanging on the chain link. We added a couple of perches in the main spots where she hung on the wire and that helped tremendously, but now she's hanging in some new places. The key questions is WHY? It's obviously not out of fear. And I don't think she's trying to catch critters outside or trying to get to another specific perch outside. I think she just plain would like to get out of the cage which unfortunately isn't an option since she's blind in one eye.

I called Roger Meyer, master cage builder, last night to discuss our options. It seems we need to provide a physical barrier to prevent hanging on the chain link. I had suggested adding vertical slats over the chain link, but Roger asked about thin plywood. That seems like the way to go...they can't hang on it at all, and it would be the easiest thing to do.

I don't plan to put plywood over ALL of the chain link...just the top four feet. Owls like to be high and fly high and get higher, so I don't think they will fly down to hang on the wire. This will allow them to see outside still, but mostly just see the ground and grass and critters that are close to the cage. It shouldn't make them want to fly down and hang on the wire.

They will still be able to see some through the existing slats, so it's not like they won't be able to see anything. Rusty seems to deal with the chain link just fine, but Iris can't seem to handle it. Owls adapt slowly to change so I was hoping after two months she'd get used to her boundaries. No dice. So time for yet another cage modification in the interest of the owls' physical and mental health.

Roger's coming over in a couple of days to take measurements, then we'll see how long it takes to round up materials, cut them to size, avoid Christmas get-togethers, and get them installed.


  1. Hello--

    (Might as well sign in, finally, since this seems to be becoming a habit...)

    Thanks for the updates! Was curious about those boxes on the walls, and also about Iris hanging on the chain link. (Would Plexiglas over the chain link not be a viable option due to expense and/or heat buildup? Just wondering...)

    Just a few observations from tonight (20 December 2010):

    At around 4:54 PM PST, there was some brief (under a minute), excited-sounding hooting off-camera.

    At around 5:01 PST, there was a single, fairly loud, decided un-owl-like (to my inexperienced ears, anyway) sound--definitely not a hoot.

    And at about 7:09 PM PST, there were a series of staccato hoots (something like Hoo hoo hoo hoo HOOOO Hoo!), with two owls vocalizing in this pattern, one at a slightly lower pitch than the other. I couldn't tell where they were coming from--might it have been Iris and Alice?

    Thanks so much for all of this!

  2. Not sure who is on the nest right now, but lots of hooting...12:15 am ET

  3. A few notes from this morning (23 December):

    At around 3:28 PST, both owls were in the nest--one on one of the perches, the other on the edge of the nest. The owl on the perch (can't quite tell who is who on the IR camera just yet) whistled loudly and flew off; the owl other owl stayed on the nest and whistled a few times while looking around, apparently watching the other owl.

    And at about 4:55 PST, an off-camera hoot sounded, and the owl in the nest at the time (Rusty? Sounded like his pattern and pitch.) responded.

    Not much going on now (5:50 PST), but whoever's sleeping in the nest (Iris?) has her/his forehead right up in the camera lens.

    (Perhaps you could post a picture or two of the owls from the IR cam and possibly some notes as to how to tell who's who?)

  4. Thanks for all the notes! It seems the owls are inching bit by bit closer to courtship....!

  5. Just a quick nighttime note (23 Dec 2010):

    At 20:24 PST, Iris hoots off-camera (Hoo hoo hoo hoo HOO hoo!), Rusty responds (same pattern, lower pitch). Iris repeats, then Rusty repeats, then everyone's quiet again...

  6. And some more notes from this morning (24 Dec 2010):

    At around 03:49 PST, there's an extended hoot exchange, lasting about 2 minutes. Iris starts with a Hoo hoohoohoohoo HOOO Hoo! from somewhere off-camera, and Rusty, who is on the end of the log perch at the center of the nest box with his ear tufts up, answers with the same call, at a lower pitch.

    At around 4:57 PST, there's an off-camera hoot (
    (Hoo hoohoohohoo HOOO hoo!) repeated 2-3 times, then Rusty responds with Hoo hoohoohoohoo HOOO Hoo! once, then all quiet again.

    At around 05:15 - Iris caches some food in the far back corner of the nest.

    And at around 5:19 PST, Iris is in the nest, Rusty lands on log perch on the edge, and someone whistles a greeting. Silence, more whistling that gets louder, then Rusty jumps
    towards Iris, who leaves. Rusty stays, walks around and looks around a bit, leaves briefly at 5:22, then comes back and lands on front edge of nest. He walks around a bit longer, hops on and off the center perch, and has apparently settled in for the day at the front edge, next to the wall.

    Oh, and something that I noticed on the 21st and for some reason didn't post--at about 05:00 PST, whoever was in the nest flew towards the bath pan camera (which was broadcasting at the time), and it sounded like the two owls met in the air--lots of whistling and a couple of hoots, with flapping wings visible at the bottom of the frame. After that, one owl headed for the nest, the other one to somewhere off camera. (Hope this isn't too late to retrieve footage if it turns out to be relevant...)

  7. 12/24/2010 3:37pm est Rusty began hooting loudly 2 hoots a pause 2 hoots. he repeated this close to 20 times. I didn't hear iris flying and the cam is on rusty in the nest box.


  8. rusty hooted again at 3:13pm est


  9. And just a brief note for the morning of 12/25/10:

    At around 05:00 PST, a couple of quiet hoots sounded off-camera; from the pitch, it sounded like Iris.

    Nice view of this very lovely couple on the edge of the nest this morning. This is a good sign, yes?

    (Also--just wondering, if perhaps offering some live prey items in addition to the usual fare at Alice's Restaurant (sorry, couldn't resist) might help with whatever's been prompting Iris to hang on the chain link?)

  10. Dang, your times are right on the button! Alice hooted in the house and Iris responded to her hoot at 0700 Central Time.

    Yes, it was very nice to see Rusty and Iris sitting together this morning.

    Hmmm...I'll think about the live prey might give her something productive to do in the cage....