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!

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