For the last two months I have followed the fate of the barn owl (Tyto alba) nest and hatchlings in our barn (Lookout CA). Over the last twenty three years, three chicks, of which only two survived, has been the record for owlets raised in our barn. This year FIVE chicks hatched. In a recent post I reported that four were doing well and that I believed the fifth (Hatchling #3) was hiding among the hay bales. Happily all five young owls are now accounted for and are thriving. I can go into the barn and see seven owls (five juveniles and two parents) at once. I am not certain how the parents are managing to keep all the young owls fed. They must be an overworked pair every night!
Hatchlings #1 and #2 are up near the ridge pole of the barn. They have shed all of their down and I believe go out at night with the parents. These two may not be good hunters yet, as they seem to spend most of the night chattering in the trees outside our bedroom window. However, they are learning to be independent.
Hatchling #3 is now out from the hay bales and can fly as far as the lower rafters. This young owl is still downy. In a day or so it will move to the higher perches.
Finally, #4 and #5 to hatch remain in the nest bucket. They both are very well-developed – much more so than their older siblings were when they, intentionally or not, fell onto the barn floor. But like the babies in most families I suppose these two are indulged. In reality, with only two left in the nest there probably is space for them to remain. Within a day or so these final two hatchlings should fledge.
The owl saga in our barn has a most happy ending this year – five hatchlings, all of which survived. At this point I will leave our barn owls and no longer will report on the 2012 owlets – until next breeding season. Now if I could only get a family photograph of all seven together at once!