Sunday, February 19, 2012

Countdown to Hatching

Iris has been incubating her first egg for 29 days. As I understand it, incubation is supposed to take 32-34 days in Great Horned Owls, so we are getting close to hatching.

I've asked people to keep an eye and ear out for signs of Iris talking to the eggs and/or the eggs talking to her. This morning a viewer reported Iris potentially talking to the eggs. I took a quick peek at the video and thought Iris was just clucking because she had food in her beak and it was breeding season.

Later in the day I reviewed the full night's video and realized that IRIS had brought this food to the nest. This is the first time she's done that. And she appeared to be trying to feed it to the eggs while clucking, although it was much too big a piece for a tiny chick to eat.

Later on she took the food in one foot while still sitting on the nest and tore off two chunks and ate them. She has never torn food up on the nest to eat...she's only eating the small pieces that Rusty brings which can be swallowed whole.

She messed around with the remainder of the gopher a few times, trying to move it to the edge of the nest bowl. It kept sliding back down by the eggs.

But this is new behavior, which to me indicates we're on hatch watch now. So look and listen for sounds of baby chicks in eggs or Iris talking to the eggs. I REALLY hope we can hear them before they hatch!

But yes, she still definitely has eggs, as can be seen in this photo from today.


  1. That is fascinating and so sweet. What a gift to be able to watch and learn about the mysterious ways of birds. I really thought last night that she heard/felt something in the eggs beneath her. Thanks for the video. That instinct to feed is so strong. Thanks for letting us be a part of all this. Can't wait for the hatching.

  2. Hi--

    Some quick notes from earlier today:

    at 10:37 PST, Rusty hooted, and Iris appeared to alert to something she was still on the nest, but her head was up and she was looking around.

    At 15:45 PST, there was a brief hoot/cluck exchange.

    And some interesting behavior just now...

    At 16:11 PST, Rusty started hooting, and Iris clucks back.

    At 16:18 PST, Iris stepped out of the nest, with Rusty hooting on the log perch; Iris flew to somewhere off-camera, with Rusty still hooting and looking into flight cage.

    At 16:20 PST,Iris was on the right side of the far perch (guess she went into the flight cage when the video feed skipped earlier).

    At 16:22 PST, Rusty was on the log perch hooting at Iris on far perch. Iris clucked back (first time I've heard her do this off the nest).

    At 16:23 PST, Iris returned to the nest with food. She was also clucking, but this sounded different, a bit more squeaky/throaty than before. Rusty was hooting on the log perch and looking at the nest. Iris went into nest bowl and put the food down, then looked down in the nest bowl and rummaged with her beak. Rusty was in the center of the far perch; he, hooted, Iris clucked and looked up. Rusty kept hooting, and Iris clucked and squeaked.
    At 16:26 PST, Iris settle down in nest.

    As of right now (16:33 PST), Rusty has just returned to the log perch from the food tray (not sure when he went down there), and Iris is in the nest, looking at the back wall. I'm not sure where the food went. Now Iris is clucking again, and it's that throatier-sounding cluck. She seems to be paying much more attention to her eggs as well.

  3. 1200am (midnight) Rusty flew up to the nest with some hooting, then something crazy must have happened because birds left the nest in a hurry and feathers flew everywhere. I looked and listened in the nest, but didn't see any chicks or eggs for that matter. Rusty and Iris did quite a bit of hooting, both while off the nest. Then both flew into the other cage, did some more hooting. I don't know what scared them and couldn't pick out a third owl hooting. 12:10-so much hooting! Seems like typical GHOW hoots with some extra staccato notes. Iris heads back to the nest at 12:16 and settles back down. She also brought food. Rusty continues to hoot. At no time did I hear or see babies.

    PS This is Katie McVey. Wish I could come to the festival this again this year. Congrats on all the success.

  4. To add to Katie's observations, this started right after 9:00 pm nest time. I heard a couple loud crashes like something hitting against pen. When they flew to flight pen I heard the coyotes going crazy but later after Iris was back in the nest and all settled down, Rusty stayed in flight pen and I did hear him continue to hoot with another outside owl, so possibly that was the cause of the ruckus.

  5. Yes, there was commotion last night! I know there's someone hunting coyotes in the valley (after dark), so that's what we were hearing around 9 PM. But the ruckus at midnight sounded like a gunshot RIGHT THERE, but there were no associated sounds of anyone walking or driving nearby. So I'm not sure what happened.

    But I went out to inspect the outside of the cage this morning and found a hole in the mesh on the outside of the cage just above the nest. It is VERY important that I fix this with a hatch imminent, since a mink could get in there and kill the owlets. So I plan to fix it this afternoon as quickly as possible (which will involve scaring Iris off the eggs and using a staple gun.) But I should be able to to it in less than 2 minutes.

  6. in case anyone is interested, here is Mrs Harvey! another great horned owl. There's also a Mr Harvey of course but don't get to see him much if at all.


  7. This is really great! I love watching the owls, thank you! She was hooting about 10 minutes ago (8:56 CST) and checked the eggs. Can't wait for them to hatch!