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.


  1. I noticed when both Rusty and Iris pounced on the mice, they extended one wing way out. Would this be for balance, to keep prey from escaping or what?

  2. Very interesting footage. A variation on the live rat release that I have used with young hawks is to attache a dead rodent loosely to a a fishing rod line and reel it slowly across in front of them. They invariably pounced on it and pulled it free off the line when they flew off to eat it. This also worked well in my yard with a young hawk that seemed to be starving because it wasn't learning to hunt as quickly as its siblings. After about a week of "practice" it was catching live mice on its own and keeping up with its siblings.