Saturday, June 15, 2013

New Owlet Vocalization

I've been collecting and studying Great Horned Owl vocalizations since 2004, so there's not a whole lot I haven't heard (or heard of) before.  But there's always more to discover!

A few nights ago all the owls were spooked by something.  All but Iris flew into the breeding pen and were alertly looking around.  Iris was looking at something outside, and every now and then another owl joined her to look at the thing outside.

I couldn't see what it was, but a shrill call I had never heard before was given repeatedly.  I couldn't figure out what could make a noise like that, especially that would be something that would scare them.  Mammals came to mind, since I don't know many of their vocalizations.  I couldn't imagine this was a deer.  I could imagine it coming from a woodchuck, but that certainly wouldn't scare them.

After several minutes I realized the sounds were louder in the breeding pen.  After watching those cams alertly, I realize the "shoulders" of one of the owlets moved just slightly when the sounds were made.  I zoomed in, and sure enough, the owlet moved slightly with each sound.  It was facing away from the camera, but it had to be that owlet!

I followed the owlet around with the PTZ cam, and eventually was able to get a frontal view of the call, where you could see the owlet opening its bill when making the sound.

The sound seems to be the same alarm call that Iris gives for the family when danger is near.  Oddly, IRIS wasn't making the sound at all, although it certainly seemed to be the context for it.  Perhaps only one owl in the group is supposed to make the call and an owlet took it on instead of Iris?  More to learn, since this has never been documented before!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Owlets Showering

The owlets have sure figured out all about showering!  They took full advantage of the downpour yesterday to enthusiastically shower.  Thankfully the light was good so we could get such good video of them.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Rusty Squawks and Emphatic Hoots

What the heck?!?  Who knew Great Horned Owls made sounds like this??

The squawks and emphatic hoots Rusty is doing here are a very uncommon vocalization given by Great Horned Owls.  I think Victor is the only other GHO I've heard make this vocalization, but I haven't heard him do it for a few years.

I've seen Rusty do it a few times, but generally there's absolutely NOTHING going on and Iris is snoozing when he does it.  Victor did it the night Rusty and Iris moved in.  Rusty seemed to have given up on hunting when he did it here. So what does it mean?  No idea.  I still need more and more observations to help figure it out.

Thanks to the people who reported it, otherwise I would have missed this important vocalization!

Monday, June 03, 2013

The Owlets' First Live Prey

With all the playing the owlets were doing, it was high time they got started on live prey.  Hein and his friend Jeroen finished the rat barrier (to keep the rats IN the flight pen), so all was ready.

This morning we made a trip to get our first live rats from Monster Breeders.  We got about a dozen just weaned rats, and Matt, the owner, sent us home with a cage to keep them in, bedding, and food.  We wanted to start with really small rats to give the owlets the best chance of success, to build their confidence.

The feeding was scheduled for 7 PM, but it was delayed due to Ustream issues.  But I finally got the cams up and running and put two live mice into the flight pen, along with some dead gopher (but less than usual.)

One rat went right behind a stuffed animal under the food tray.  The other ran along the side of the enclosure and then froze.  We had the pan/tilt/zoom cam following the action, but we missed both kills!

For the first one Rusty flew down near the rat.  He walked over near it and when it ran, he grabbed it with a foot.  How dramatic.  LOL.  He kindly gave the rat to an owlet.

The PTZ also missed the next action.  (Easy to do with 5 owls to keep track of!)  The rat was along the side of the pen and one of the owlets flew down near it.  The rat ran a bit, then the owlet did a defense display to the rat.  Ha!  Iris came running to the rescue (literally on foot) and caught the rat.  The owlet did a defense display again to that scary little rat.  Iris clucked and eventually gave it to another owlet.

Rusty was totally in hunting mode then, so I delivered another live mouse.  This one, however, hid and stayed put.  Time will tell who gets the privilege of that rat.