Thursday, April 11, 2013

Summary of April 4 Q&A on Chat

Thanks to rose for working furiously to copy and paste the whole chat session on April 4.  Then she spent forever editing and re-editing it so you can read it here!  Everyone who appreciates this, please thank rose!!

Karla’s Q & A 04/04/2013
#1 is 3 weeks old today, #3 is 2 weeks old today, and #2 is 2 weeks and 4 days old today
Q: Do the owlets have names yet?
No names for the kids yet. I'd like to know the sex of the owlets before names are selected. I would like to do DNA sex testing with a drop of blood when the owlets are banded. Right now I'm in discussions with the permit authorities about which kind of band will be used.
Q: Karla, tell us about the "hissy hoots" the kids were doing.
#1 & 2 did little squeaky hoots the other day when all the owls were hooting. The extremely cool thing about those little squeaky hoots is that although they were squawks instead of hoots, they used the exact rhythm Iris does in her hoots, a female rhythm. So I would say I'm 90% sure #1 & #2 are girls based on that, but you never know what will happen with the vocal development. You won't find anything in the published literature about males and females having different rhythms, because I'm working on that research right now. I don't think there is much other research going on with vocalizations of other owl species, except Karan Odom has done quite a bit with Barred Owls.
Q: I thought the baby was just imitating her, didn't know it was gender based
We'll find out if it's imitation or gender-based as time goes on.
Q: Karla, how much are the owlets eating per day
I don't know that I can say how much the owlets are eating per day. I just put out a heap of food and the kids get some and Rusty and Iris get some. But, I prepared 4 pocket gophers and a piece of rabbit for tonight, and Alice got 1/2 a gopher.
Q: Karla, isn't it unusual for Rusty and Iris to be mating now?
I can't say if it's unusual for Rusty and Iris to be copulating now since I don't think anyone has ever had the opportunity to see it like this.
Q: Good point Karla, about the copulating. Could it just be reassurance, a "bonding" thing?
Maybe it's just a bonding thing, or hormones still going, hard to say.
Q: Karla, with your access to the higher resolution/native videos, have you seen #1’s eyes start to change color?
I haven't noticed #1's eyes changing color yet. I think when the owlets all lay down in the nest they look like a big mound of mold in the bottom of the nest. #1 tried to hop up onto the platform this afternoon. She couldn't quite make it.
Q: Naked armpits on that kid!
Good point on naked armpits. Feathers grow in tracts, not all over the surface of the body, so they have visible bared patches until the feathers grow over them.
Q: How old will they be before you start live food trials? Will you release live rodents into the pen?
I won't start the owlets on live food until just before release.
Q: Karla, have you seen/heard or come across any other reference of well, 'tea time' as a sound/call?
No, I've never seen a reference to "tea time" other than here. Most call it a scream or squeal.
Q: Karla...Has Alice been hooting to Rusty at all and how is she doing??
Alice is still very hooty. I took her eggs away, so she's mostly off her nest now and out in her outdoor patio area. So she hoots a lot and you can hear her on the cam. She normally leaves off the last note.
Q: Karla, I have not seen Iris and Rusty allopreen each other. Do you know if it is common practice for GHO's to allopreen?
I haven't seen Rusty and Iris preen each other (allopreen) yet either. Alice used to do it to me early on, but not anymore. Not sure if they grow out of it and adults don't do it? Something we need to watch and record.
Q: Karla, I am real newcomer to the owls, so I have a couple of questions. When do the owls start fending for themselves, doing their own hunting and such?
Normally young GHOs (Great Horned Owls) are no longer fed by Mom & Dad by Aug/Sept. Then they have to move on and fend for themsevles. They normally become "floaters" since all available territories should be taken. They just shut up and don't hoot so they don't get into trouble with the territory holders, but when one dies, that's their chance. So, most have to wait a few years to breed in a healthy population.
Q: What are floaters?
Floaters are non-breeding owls that don't have territories.
Q: Karla, why do you think Iris has been chewing on the astro-turf? I saw #1 imitating her, too.
The chewing on the Astroturf thing is something many raptors in captivity do, whether out of boredom, as a displacement behavior, or I think just something to pick at.
Q: Karla, you teaching these 3 to hunt is going to be quite the daunting task!
Thankfully, I don't have to teach them to hunt. They have the natural instinct to do it, but it must be motivated by hunger. Then they just need some time to practice.
Q: Karla, how far away will they have to go to find their own territory?
I'm not sure how far they have to go (or will go) to find a territory. From the research, i don't think it's very far (maybe less than 10-20 miles normally??? not sure.)
Q: How old are they when they normally find a mate and begin to raise their own broods?
I think they are normally 3+ years old before they get their own territory from what I've read in the literature, but they are capable at age 1.
Q: And they stay in the same general area year round? They don't migrate do they?
GHOs are sedentary and stay resident on their territories year-round, with the same mate. No migration for GHOs, except that the Canadian populations that depend on snowshoe hares will go long distances (hundreds of miles) when the hare population crashes.
Q: What enemies, if any, do GHOs have?
That's normally the young GHOs. Adult GHOs only have one natural enemy (other than killing each other), and that's humans. Eagles and GHOs may tangle over nests. Not sure how many are killed in the process, but many times the GHO wins.
Q: What happens when they need to fledge? I’ve actually have been watching, but wonder how kids will go out into the big world!
These owlets will just fledge into their enclosure. It's about 1000 square feet, so they have lots of room. You can find more information about this project, the history, and what I plan to have happen on the Owl Center website under the "our owls" tab and "background"
Q: Karla, why do you think the owls in OKC decided on a planter on a balcony to nest?
I don't think the OKC owls have a lot of choice in their territory for nest sites. GHOs don't build nests, they have to use something already there. There aren't many large trees in the area, so the planter is probably their best bet. GHOs I think would ideally like to nest in cavities, but there are few trees large enough to have that size of cavity. It takes a huge silver maple, cottonwood, or something. So they usually use Red-tailed Hawk nests and squirrel nests around here, which they normally trash in a year or two thanks to all that digging they do prepping the nest. I would think GHOs would like their nest to be sheltered from prevailing winds, if they can afford to be fussy.
Q: In OKC Jeff said that the female who nested there previous years dug in different places before deciding on that planter where she is now
Yes, GHOs go nest shopping every fall/early winter.
Q: Karla, do you think Iris has "lightened" up a bit over Rusty coming to the nest a lot? I know he provides food, but to look at the babies.
I do think Iris is lightening up about Rusty being around the kids. Males don't know how to tear up food to feed to the kids, the Mom does that all. But now that the oldest kids can accept mice and small pieces I think she's easing up. I need to clarify, males don't know how to tear up for FOR THE KIDS. They do it for themselves. Sorry for the confustion.
Q: I’ve noticed that Rusty just puts food in everyones face.
Sometimes Rusty wags the food in front of the kid to see if they'll take it. Yes, that's how Iris feeds too. But I think Iris has more patience about wagging food than Rusty. I gave them a pile of mice last night, and I heard Rusty did mouse delivery like crazy this morning. Reviewing the video, it seems the kids got full before he was done delivering, so it just got cached. But I saw him down a few too! So it seems #1 and #2 can down whole mice, but did anyone see #3 do a mouse yet? I would think #3 should be ready for a whole mouse soon. I'm hoping that one's a boy so I can compare his development with my presumed females (1 & 2)
I really appreciate the observations you all are making. They help me VERY MUCH with the research since I can't watch all the time.
Q: I think one is male and one is female in OKC due to opposite hooting types, behaviors when food delivered, and other things, so I wondered about how the male eats. If the baby does not tear up the food but instead just tries to down it, could it be a male?
I'm not aware of any differences with how males would eat their food, just in behaviors delivering to the kids.

  • FYI: If you scroll down a little, there is an "Owl observation submission" form you can fill out if you see anything of interest to report.
Thanks for reminding people about the observation submission form below, maxi.
Q: Has #1 kept her egg tooth unusually long?
I have no idea on the egg tooth retention thing. According to the literature it should be off by now, but then again, the literature says eggs are laid 2 days apart, and it's 3. But then again, I'm not 100% positive that the white spot is the egg tooth itself. The bill may just be white under where the egg tooth was. Not sure.
Q: Karla, will you be putting recordings of the owlets hissy hoots on the owl center site and others as they grow?
Yes, I'll need to get the new owlet hoots online, and maybe their little chitters too. Not sure when I'll get there, but one of these days!
One thing I'd like everyone to watch as you look at other GHO cam is how much the owls cock their tail up when hooting. It seems some don't go above horizontal, and some go almost vertical. Thanks! It's not often that owls are SEEN hooting in the wild, so cams are a great place to watch and compare.
Q: Wonder what that means? Do female tails go higher?
Iris and Alice really cock their tails up almost vertical. But an unmated female at the Owl Research Institute in Montana didn't cock her tail at all. Rusty doesn't cock his tail very high. I suspect Rusty is an old fellow (but can't know for sure), so I wonder if he doesn't cock as high due to age?? A question I have anyway.
Q: Is it an individual characteristic then? I notice Rusty doesn't lift his tail up, but he DOES lean over more than Iris does.
Bob Pruner has some nice videos of his local GHOs hooting, so nice to compare with them too.
Q: Have you had any more tv or newspaper interviews lately?
No new media interviews recently. Just kind of had a barrage for a while.
Q: What about Iris' age?
I don't know ages of either Rusty or Iris. Iris was in captivity by at least 2006 and Rusty by 2007. Some say that their eyes get darker yellow as they get older, and Rusty's are darker, which is why I think he might be an old fellow. Plus he's got kind of a husky voice.
Q: Has Rusty ever "clucked" before?
I’ve never heard him.
Q: Rusty & Iris were adults when you got them, and they can breed at 3 years or so?
Rusty and Iris self-selected each other in rehab. They were adults when they came into rehab. They are capable of breeding at age 1 though. Normally I don't think they get a chance to breed at age 1, and they probably aren't as successful as older birds.

Q: How long have they been with you, Karla?
Since the fall of 2010.
Q: Someone asked yesterday if #3's eyes were open yet. Aren't they open right after birth?
No, their eyes aren't open for several days after hatching. I'd have to look back through my notes to see how many days it was before eyes opened.
Q: I wonder if it would be different in circumstances where food was less available. I wonder if there isn't competition when they are in the wild and food is not hand delivered!
Yes, I read that wild owlets may kill younger siblings if there isn't enough food. Not an issue here.
I have seen it with eaglets and it is very tuff to watch... :(
That's why we need to pay attention and record what we see on the cams. Not everything in the literature is correct or representative of the species in general.
Rusty doesn't do his "food grunt" as much for the kids as he does when he brings food to Iris, I don't think. Does Mr. T make sounds when he brings food?
Q: Karla, I've mentioned in chat that Iris & Rusty seem more animated and content since the owlets came into their lives.
Iris sure seems more content these days than at the beginning. I remember thinking several months after she moved in that she would never settle in and I'd have to get another female. I did alllll kinds of modifications to the enclosure to try to get her to calm down. Kept trying new things and finally she gradually settled in. I think males may just be more mellow than females in general.
Q: Was there one modification that seemed to calm her down or did it just take time?
Covering up the chainlink is what it boiled down to. I couldn't let her have an unobstructed view of the outside world. . I hated to cover the chainlink with slats, but I had do that, so she didn't do permanent damage to her feet. It drove me nuts trying to figure out what would calm her.
Q: What kind of enclosure did she have before she came to you?
Iris and Rusty were in an enclosure with slats on the walls if I recall. I think there had been chainlink on the ceiling, but Rusty hung on it, so that likely had been converted to slats.
Q: Karla, will you be able to install a cam in the flight pen when fledging gets close?
Yes, I expect that we should be able to install a pan/tilt/zoom cam in the flight pen after the kids fledge. I think we are almost there donation-wise. Maybe $200 or so if memory serves??
Q: With many of the barn owls, it appears to be copulation for food. The male brings food, gives it to her, female lets male mount. At the end of the day, the male's ability to provide food is crucial to being an appropriate mate.
Interesting. Barn Owls seem so different from the typical owls in so many ways.
Another thing I'd like everyone to listen for is if Iris squawks to call Rusty to bring food. I doubt it's likely since he brings food all the time, but I'd love to record it if it happens. Again, I really appreciate everyone's help!
Don't you think Rusty's hoot is sexy?? The owl babes sure do, like Scarlett Owl Hara and Jezebelle. Rhett's hoot is pretty deep and manly too. And Victor, whew! He's got that vibrato thing going on. LOL Rusty switches over to his "sexy hoots" before tea time. They are lower, and sometimes he leaves notes off the end. Officially I've called it a "greeting hoot" since that's the context I knew it from.
Q: I wonder what that means, to leave off end note.
It’s more like saying "hi" instead of a formal "hello"

Did you see Iris stand up tall to look at the food? Owls are far sighted. So just like everyone who holds the newspaper at arm's length to read it when they don't have their glasses, owls stand up tall to look at what they're standing on.
WyoRanch thinks Karla better get glasses for GHO's - legs only grow so long
Hein has over 10 pairs of reading glasses, so we're well stocked here.

I just realized a few days ago that we have SIX owls here! Kind of snuck up on me. Thankfully Hein is an owl guy, so he enjoys watching the cams and learning too. Six captive owls: Alice, Rusty, Iris, and 3 owlets. Wild owls: Rhett, Delilah, and Victor right now.
Q: Hein must be your soul mate. <3 all="" b="" does="" hein="" karla="" now="" of="" think="" this="" what="">
When I first met Hein at the World Owl Conference in Holland in 2007, I felt like I had known him forever in the first 24 hours.
The previous wild owls include: Wheezy (deceased from West Nile Virus)Wendell, her mate who was run off by other owls after Wheezy died. Virginia, who died of an infection this past summer (was Victor's mate.) Scarlett Owl Hara, the witch who wanted Rusty and wanted to kill Alice and hung around for months until she hooked up with Rhett the fall of 2010. And Jezebelle, who was here a few days after Rusty and trying to kill Alice. Although I think Jezebelle might be Delilah.
Q: Did u find their bodies karla?
My neighbor found Wheezy on the ground unable to fly but alive. I sent her to The Raptor Center in St. Paul. She later when blind and was horribly mean. She had to be euthanized. Another neighbor found Virginia on the sand bar of the river, still alive. Virginia wasn't doing well when we found her on the sandbar. We sent her to The Raptor Center. She had a slice in her pectoral muscle full of maggots. They cleaned it out, but she died of an infection a few weeks later and the found an abscess under the skin in her leg. We can't know what happened to her, but I suspect a fight with another female after the female aggression I saw from Scarlett, Jezebelle, and Virginia.
I'm EXTREMELY thankful to have found them. Otherwise they would have disappeared and I wouldn't have known why or when. Like Scarlett. I don't know what happened to her. Virginia had been resident at my place since 2005, when she and Victor booted out Wendell and Wheezy. Scarlett seemed like she had hooked up with Rhett, so I didn't expect her to move on from there. But you never know, especially with an owl with a name like Scarlett.
Q: Karla, that was a barred owl I heard the other morning, right? Have you named that one?
The Barred Owls don't have any names since they don't come close and i haven't paid attention so I can tell them apart.
Q: Could #3 suffer any ill effects from not having as much time under mom as the others?
I suspect the bigger kids help keep #3 warm. #3 might need a little help thermoregulating yet. I don't remember at what age then can do that well themselves.
Q: I hear one of the owlets at Alessondra's branched to the railing tonight at 6 weeks old.
That's great! And right on time from what I've read. So, something to watch for at OKC now that branching is happening is contact calls between Mom and the kids. I watched a wild nest and when the owlet first started branching, Mom would make occasional single squawks when she was away from the nest, like to let the owlets know where she was.
Q: Oh, thanks for the heads up, Karla. Lots of hooting last night, but controversy over whether it was mom or dad.
Has she done any contact calls with the kids yet when away from the nest?
Yes, Karla
Females and males have different rhythms, so once you get used to them you can ID mom & dad pretty easily. Maybe she will call more to the kids when she's away from the nest now.
I can't say it enough: I really appreciate the help! There is simply no way I could get so many important observations without you all.
Q: Are the contact calls like regular hoots?
Contact calls are single squawks. You can find a recording on the Owl Center website under "our owls" and "vocalizations"
Higher pitched hoot with more notes?
Yes. Females are higher pitched with more notes, and in a different rhythm

OK, did I manage to get everyone's questions answered? Or are there some left yet? Thanks for watching and helping! These cams are an incredible learning and research opportunity. So, next time I'll have to shoot for a Sunday early afternoon or late morning so the folks in Europe can join in.
Q: Karla, maybe next time go live so the newer viewers could meet Alice
I'll have to mess with my Ustream settings to get the video from the computer working again.
OK, time for me to bug out for the night. Thank you all again!
Alice can be quite a character!
That's an understatment!! Good night!


  1. Rose: you did a great job of summarizing and editing the Q&A chat from April 4, 2013. Karla: thank you for posting the April 4th Q&A chat.

  2. Great work Rose. I had other commitments on April 4 so I couldn't join the chat. So glad to see all this info.

  3. Thank you for all this information, Karla and Rose. I am waaaay behind reading things in the blog and I love learning more about the owls.