Monday, August 19, 2013

Rusty takes a Sand Bath

I only knew owls took water baths until one day several years ago I saw Iris thrashing around on the floor of her pen. I thought she was having a seizure, but realized she was trying to take a dust bath. So we added a pan filled with sand, and occasionally the owls now take sand baths. I think this is the best video we have of a sand/dust bath, since Rusty was nice enough to do it during daylight hours for us. Why do they do this? Good question. Perhaps it can help control ectoparasites like lice and flat flies. Or maybe it just feels good. No idea.


Great Horned Owls make all kinds of sounds we don't expect. Yes, they sneeze. They also make a soft, short squeaky sound when they stretch a wing and leg sometimes. But chat room moderator rose noticed a different kind of sound: a short "chirp" that is given just as an owlet starts to fly. I'm not sure if its only one owlet doing this, but I don't think its all of them since otherwise I think we'd hear it a lot. But some nights when she's doing her late shift of observations she notices it several times. What does it mean? I have absolutely no idea. I'm certain this sound has never been recorded or described before, so let's watch to see if it's only one owlet, all the owlets, if it's always given when they start flying, or any other details of what's going on. Thanks rose for catching this so many times!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Owlet Chittering and Hooting in Its Sleep

I've always known that owls can talk in their sleep since I've seen and heard Alice do it many times.  But I never had a recorder or video camera handy, and it happens way too fast anyway.

Thanks to dedicated cam viewers, we're finding out new things about owl vocalizations.  Jonnetje from The Netherlands was online in the wee hours of our morning (daytime for her) and she noted an odd vocalization.  I went back to the place in the video she indicated and found this clip.

The owlet on the right is sleeping, but with the sound up you'll hear quiet chitters, but they are annoyed.  (Obviously no one is doing anything to annoy the owlet.)  Shortly after is a mumbled, muffled, high-pitched hoot.  A "sleep hoot" is muffled and mumbled anyway since the gular sac can't expand when their head is settled down while sleeping, but this owlet sounds extra odd because it's vocal apparatus is not developed enough to give a low adult-type hoot.

Notice that the owlet woke itself up with its hoot.  Alice does this sometimes too.

Thanks to all of you who are watching and submitting your observations!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Teenager Hoots

This is another MOMENTOUS occasion: one of the owlets started doing big kid hoots this morning at 3:57 AM!

One of the things I'm working to document is the development of the territorial hoot in young owls.  We recorded the tiny little peeping hoots they did when just over two weeks old.  Those only seemed to last until four weeks or so, and then nothing has been heard since.

Yesterday we separated the juvenile owls from the adult owls.  It was simply the time of year to do it, and the kids weren't roosting by their parents so much anymore.  I figured the owlets wouldn't start hooting as long as Mom and Dad were around to defend their territory.

Last night Rhett and Delilah, the resident wild owls, were in the yard hooting for a few hours.  After a couple of hours of hooting, one of the owlets flew to the V-perch and started hooting!!  The hoots aren't as quiet and peepy as the nestling hoots...they're squeakier more like a rubber ducky trying to hoot.  But a hoot it is, with proper hooting posture (throat pouch inflated, leaning forward, tail cocked up.)

Based on the video and the rhythm, I am suspecting it's one of the girls doing the hoot...maybe Pandora, the oldest?

I'll be anxious to hear when the others start hooting, what they sound like, and how long it takes to make a real adult-sounding hoot.


Friday, August 09, 2013

Another fun poem

This time the fun poem about the Rusty and Iris cam is by teachcon:

why, oh why, oh wyo?
why do the owls fly-o?
why do they screech at the sky-o?
and on their bellies lie-o?
so glad we can ask wyo!

(For those who don't know, wyoranch is one of the moderators, and she often goes by 'wyo'.)

Friday, August 02, 2013

The Barn Owl has Officially Arrived!

It's been an incredibly busy week with Natural Playground progress, a long meeting, trying to finish up the Rusty and Iris program I'm giving tomorrow night (still not done yet), Owl Center plans, an injured owl, etc., etc.  But hallelujah!  The Barn Owl has officially arrived!

The owl has spent the last several months with rehabbers Sue and Merv Broten in Chaseburg, WI.  As with most rehabbers, they are always busy, and always need more cage space.  So they were VERY happy to send the Barn Owl to its new home with us--so happy they drove it over themselves!  (OK, so they wanted to see the Great Horned Owl breeding and research set up in person too....)

The owl is not at all comfortable with humans yet, so it will be a slow process to get it used to people.  We will not put jesses (leather straps) on its legs until it is more calm.  For now we'll just let it get used to its new living quarters, where the perches are, what they're good for, etc.

And now I get to learn about Barn Owl behavior....