Owl

Canadian Breeding Facility Introduces Owl Fledglings

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The Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) is one of Canada’s most endangered species. Its entire Canadian range occurs in southwestern British Columbia.

Though historic estimates suggest that as many as 1,000 Spotted Owls occurred in the province pre-European settlement, currently fewer than 30 individuals remain in Canada, with more than half of those owls residing at the NSO Breeding Facility in Langley, BC.

The primary threat to Spotted Owls is habitat loss and fragmentation through industrial activities and human expansion. Additional threats include competition from the similar Barred Owl that has invaded the Spotted Owl’s range in recent decades.

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4_zoo borns 4Photo Credits: Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Centre

The NSO Breeding Program began in 2007 with a founding population of six adult Spotted Owls. There are currently 20 Spotted Owls residing at the breeding facility, including four breeding pairs.

As this is the first and only breeding program for this species in the world, the team has had to overcome challenges to better understand the behaviors and husbandry techniques required to successfully breed this species. The Program applies husbandry techniques such as: double clutching, artificial incubation, and hand rearing to increase the number of eggs produced and to give chicks the best chance for survival.

The Program's mission is to prevent this species from becoming extirpated from Canada by releasing captive-raised Spotted Owls back into habitat protected for the species in the province.

During the 2017 breeding season the NSO Team welcomed two chicks, Chick B and Chick D. Chick B is the first offspring for newly formed pair, Sally and Watson. Chick D is the second born to Scud and Shania. Both chicks are second-generation captive born Spotted Owls, which gives the Program confidence that captive born owls will be able to reproduce successfully.

Both chicks were artificially incubated for 32 days prior to hatching, which took an additional 85 hours! The chicks finally hatched on April 12 and April 19, 2017 and were hand raised before being returned to their parents.

The chicks have continued to grow more and more each day and left their nests in late May. As of July, the chicks are now able to fly all over their aviaries, but still rely on Mom and Dad to bring them food. They will be full grown and independent from their parents in the Fall, at which time they will undergo a routine veterinary exam and the team at the facility will find out if they are male or female.

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Zoo Basel's Owlets Stick Close to Home

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A pair of Spectacled Owl chicks, at Zoo Basel, hatched at the beginning of February. Too big for their nest, they are now quite content to perch on branches and wait for Mama or Papa to bring them food!

The owlets are already as big as their parents. However, it will be two to three years before the siblings' snowy feathers change to the dark patterns of the adults.

Keepers at Zoo Basel utilized DNA samples and were able to determine that the chicks are male and female. Staff initially suspected as much by just examining the physical aspects of the chicks. Female eyebrows are usually slightly larger than the males, but otherwise look identical. To be quite sure, determination of the sex is made by means of a genetic examination. The Zoo’s veterinarian pulled out a small growing feather and sent it to the lab. The keeper’s speculations were confirmed: the bigger of the chicks is the female.

During examinations, veterinarians also applied a chip the size of a rice kernel under the skin. With this, the bird receives a lifelong identity. This is important for the conservation programs that guide zoological breeding and care of the Spectacled Owl.

The parents of the chicks are a well-established couple. In several breedings, the two have proved that they are very caring and attentive. This winter season, at Zoo Basel, was a bit turbulent. The birds were temporarily indoors, and the two proved to be completely stress-resistant and looked after their nestlings reliably.

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4_brillenkauz_ZOB7117Photo Credits: Zoo Basel

The Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata) is a large tropical owl native to the neotropics. It is a resident breeder in forests from southern Mexico and Trinidad, through Central America, south to southern Brazil, Paraguay and northwestern Argentina.

This species is largely nocturnal. It is a solitary, unsocial bird, associating with others of their own species for reproductive purposes.

The Spectacled Owl is typically the largest and most dominant owl in its range, with the larger Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) rarely venturing into true rainforest habitats.

It preys principally on a wide array of mammals, eating almost anything that is nocturnally active. Various rodents may be primary, but virtually any type of small mammal in its habitat is vulnerable.

In Costa Rica, eggs are laid variously in the dry season (November–May), or at the start of the wet season (June–July). This owl typically nests in an unlined tree cavity, but may also use the crutch of a large tree. Spectacled Owls typically lay one to two eggs, which are incubated almost entirely by the female for about five weeks. Chicks leave the nest for surrounding branches at about five to six weeks but cannot usually fly well at this stage. They tend to depend on their parents, for several months after leaving the nest, and may be cared for and fed for up to a year once fledged. Spectacled Owls have been known to breed while still in immature snowy plumage, since it may take up to five years before full adult plumage is obtained.

The Spectacled Owl occurs over a very large range and is still a resident in much of its native habitat. Due to this, it is currently classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. However, in areas where prey is hunted by people, and habitats are destroyed or compromised, their population may decrease.


Santa Was Good to Cango Wildlife Ranch

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The Christmas season is over, but it came early for Cango Wildlife Ranch, in South Africa… bearing the most precious gifts of life! They weren’t just blessed with one or two little bundles of joy; the storks were working overtime as they reached a record high 18 babies for the month of December!

Cango staff are still beaming from ear to ear... just like proud parents. They had an incredible litter of six Cheetah cubs born at the private reserve on November 16. The cubs are strong and healthy, as is mom.

As you can imagine, the only thing cuter than one Cheetah cub is six of them! They currently receive around-the-clock care at the C.A.R.E.S. (Care and Rehab of Endangered Species) facility, and will move to the ranch in early January. The cubs provide valuable new bloodlines, which will form part of Cango’s Cheetah Preservation Program and on-going conservation efforts throughout the next decade.

The season of excitement spread from six Cheetahs to a pair of twins! Picture a Lemur right out of the movie Madagascar---with a gorgeous long black and white striped tail curved overhead, bright orange eyes as wide as the sun and a fluffy grey body. Upon taking a closer look, there are four tiny hands wrapped around her body, closely nestled on her chest are her tiny clones with stringy tails and eyes wide and alert in their big bobble-heads. Too perfect for words! Whilst mom soaks up the morning sun, the babies get a little braver and often attempt to ‘venture’ off into the unknown, but the big adventure is never more than half a meter away and they clumsily hop back to mom. One can watch them for hours until they all curl up in a big ball to take an afternoon nap.

Cango’s next baby was born in their Wallaby Walkabout. Now as cute as all the babies are, staff are confident that the new little Joey is more than likely hogging second place. He finally revealed himself by peeking out of his moms pouch! Talk about luxury living… the little Joey enjoys around-the-clock climate control, all cushioned and snug, full ‘room-service’ for meals with all the safety features of a protective mom all in her pouch! He has since started braving the big world…. He often falls out of mom’s pouch but stays close and attentive at all times. At the sight of an intimidating dove, he hops back to mom and dives headfirst into her pouch, often forgetting that his lanky legs are still sticking out.

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4_Wallaby baby2Photo Credits: Cango Wildlife Ranch

All the animal mommies are doing a phenomenal job caring for their young ones but credit must be given to Cango Wildlife Ranch’s wonderful team of hand-raisers, as well. They have had their hands full over the past month. At times, it is vital to intervene and care for babies to ensure survival. Each and every life is important to them, and they endeavor to go above and beyond to ensure they provide the utmost care to every single animal at the facility. They often act as mums, when the real moms aren’t able.

Currently, two Swainsons Lorikeet chicks (as well as two eggs being incubated), two gorgeous little Von Der Decken’s Hornbills, one bright-eyed Malayan Flying Fox (bat), and four incredible Spotted Eagle Owls are in the hands-on care of staff at the Ranch.

The Lorikeets often need to be hand-raised, due to the larger males feeding on the eggs. Staff incubates all the eggs in the C.A.R.E.S. Centre and then cares for the hatchlings until they are on solid food and can return to the aviary. This also results in very special bonds formed between the birds and carers.

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Snowy Owlets Hatch at Zoo Osnabrück

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In June, keepers at Zoo Osnabrück, in Germany, made the observation that their Snowy Owl was no longer attempting to incubate the three eggs she laid in her nest. Staff removed the eggs, and an incubator took over the work, warming the eggs at 37.5 degrees Celsius. The owlets began emerging from their eggs on July 12, and the youngest hatched on July 14. 

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4_11058299_1152605204766423_9101622692702152741_oPhoto Credits: Zoo Osnabrück

Andreas Wulftange, research associate, said, “I had to feed them four times a day. They cried for attention and craned their beaks, demanding food. You can hear them before you see them.”

Staff are currently attempting to teach them the ways of being a predatory bird. The owlets practice balancing on logs, placed on ground level. For now, they are only able to hop about their aviary, but some flight feathers are starting to emerge on their fuzzy bodies.

Wulftange, a trained falconer, continued, “We want to enable the Snowy Owlets free flight and let them fly over the zoo grounds, so visitors can see how these special birds silently glide through the air and land with pinpoint accuracy.”

The trio will remain in the aviary until they have matured and grown the feathers they need to master flight.

The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large white owl of the typical owl family. They are native to Arctic regions in North America and Eurasia. Younger owls start with darker plumage, which turns lighter as they mature. Males are mostly white, while adult females have more flecks of gray plumage.

Snowy Owls are highly nomadic and their movements are tied to locating their prey. The powerful bird relies on lemmings and other small rodents for food during the breeding season. At times of low prey density, they may switch to eating juvenile ptarmigan. Like other birds, they swallow their prey whole. Strong stomach juices digest the flesh, while the indigestible bones, teeth, fur, and feathers are compacted into oval pellets that the bird regurgitates 18 to 24 hours after feeding.

Their mating season is in May, and eggs are incubated for about 32 days. The size of the clutch varies, depending on food availability. Only females incubate the eggs. The male provides the female and young with food. Young owls begin to leave the nest around 25 to 26 days after hatching. They are not able to fly until at least 50 days of age. They continue to be fed by the parents for another 5 weeks after they leave the nest.

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Sooty Owl Chick Training for Bird Show

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A very fluffy Lesser Sooty Owl chick has recently joined the Free Flight Bird Show team, at Taronga Zoo. At the moment, he looks more like a ball of fluff than an owl, but soon the nine-week-old male will be fully fledged and ready to fly.

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11160040_919991424730416_4981664247546811123_oPhoto Credits: Taronga Zoo

The chick, named ‘Griffin’, arrived at Taronga from Featherdale Wildlife Park and is being hand-raised by Bird Show Supervisor, Matt Kettle, who says that the chick was a big hit when he started taking him home.

“As soon as I walked in the door with him and set him down in his box, my four year old daughter came up and started telling him a story. At home he stretches out in my lap while I watch TV and I give him a bit of a scratch. While nice for us, this is actually part of his training. This human interaction is important as he’ll be doing encounters and flying in the show one day, so it’s essential that he’s prepared for anything,” said Matt.

Griffin is growing up fast and is already starting to lose his fluffy down feathers. Matt continued, “Like most babies, he spends most of his time sleeping, but he’s starting to explore his surroundings more, and he’s jumping off things getting ready to fly.”

Sooty Owls are Australia’s most nocturnal species of owl, preferring very dark and dense rainforest habitat. Lesser Sooty Owls, like Griffin, are found in Northern Queensland; however, the more common Greater Sooty Owl ranges from Sydney, Victoria and into Papua New Guinea. Despite their wide range of habitat, it is very rare to actually see one of these birds in the wild.

Matt said, “They are very, very secretive birds. They aren’t very common to see. Even people who go out searching for Sooty Owls in Sydney find them very hard to find.”

“That’s why it’s so special for Griffin to be here with us as an ambassador for his species, so people can come in and learn about these stunning owls, which also hunt rats and mice.”

Matt plans to start taking Griffin for walks around the Zoo, to continue his training getting used to people, and the youngster will soon be practicing flying in the Bird Show amphitheater. 

Taronga’s birds have helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for wildlife conservation through encounters at the Bird Show.

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Rescued Owl Ready to Fly

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A rescued Owl is ready to be returned to the wild after receiving expert care at New Zealand’s Wellington Zoo.

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10926824_10152810244493462_9044059940995389830_oPhoto Credit:  Wellington Zoo

The young Morepork Owl was brought to the zoo in early December and cared for in the zoo’s unique Nest Te Kōhanga, a veterinary hospital dedicated to caring for New Zealand’s native fauna.  The little Owl now has his adult feathers and is ready to be released into the big wide world.  For the first two weeks of his release, he’ll live in an outdoor aviary run by a local sanctuary.  A lamp hanging outside the aviary will attract moths, allowing the Owl to practice his hunting skills.  After two weeks, the door will be opened and the Owl can choose to fly away or return for food if needed.

Morepork Owls are New Zealand’s only surviving native Owls, and live only in New Zealand and Tasmania.  They are also known by their Maōri name (Ruru) and Australian name (Boobook), both of which reflect the Owls' two-part calls.  These small owls live in forests and frequent urban parks.  They feed on large invertebrates such as caterpillars, beetles, and moths.  


Zoo Praha Breeds an Endangered Philippine Scops Owl

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Zoo Praha has managed to parent-rear a Philippine Scops Owl chick. The endangered species of owl lives only in the northern part of the Philippines. Prague Zoo actively contributes to its protection in cooperation with the rescue station for owls on the Philippine island of Negros. So far, the sex of the chick is unknown. Currently Zoo Praha has one breeding pair of Philippine Scops Owls. The female came from Luzon Island and the male was reared at Wroclaw Zoo.

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Photo Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo


Drusillas Celebrates the Owl-rival of Two Cheeky Chicks!

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Two Snowy Owls have hatched at Drusillas Park and have been turning heads at the award winning zoo in East Sussex.

The little hoots were discovered by keepers on June 12th and 14th and are making excellent progress. The chicks are the first to be successfully reared at the zoo in over 15 years and staff are delighted.

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Fluffy and grey, the tiny snow-balls currently bear a greater resemblance to ugly ducklings. However, as new feathers replace the down, the birds will gradually turn lighter and eventually develop the stunning white plumage of their parents. 

In the wild, these beautiful birds inhabit the chilly skies above the Arctic, where temperatures are incredibly low and snow is common. Pairs generally mate for life and build nests at ground level, laying up to 11 eggs at a time.

Proud parents, Zapper and Zephyr were introduced at Drusillas Park in 2008, after winging their way from Drayton Manor and Linton Zoo respectively. Both of them have been looking after the chicks, who are dependent on them for food and care for approximately 7 weeks. 


Breakfast for Three Little Burrowing Owlets

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Three Burrowing Owlets recently hatched at the Sacramento Zoo. These fluffy little ones will grow to weigh anywhere between 4.5-9 ounces, and become 7.5 - 10 inches tall with a wingspan of 21 - 24 inches! Males of this species are slightly heavier and have a longer wingspan than the females, which is not the norm with most owls.

Found in dry, open areas with low vegetation like deserts, grasslands, farms, and even golf courses and vacant lots in urban areas, this species hunts either while on the ground or by swooping down from a perch. They will also catch bugs while in flight. In addition to insects, they eat small mammals and at times supplement their diet with reptiles and amphibians. 

Not so for these chicks at the moment. Keeper Maureen Cleary dedicates herself to diligently feeding each Owlet. First she weighs out the amount of food that is appropriate for them at this weight and age, then patiently feeds them one bite at a time from medical scissors, which mimic a beak, just like their own mother would. The Owlets instinctually know what to do, even when their eyes were closed, as seen in the video below, where the chicks are just six days old. 

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Photo Credit: Mike Owyang

Burrowing Owls are listed as Endangered in Canada and Threatened in Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) list it as a Bird of Conservation Concern at the national level. At the state level, Burrowing Owls are listed as Endangered in Minnesota, Threatened in Colorado, and as a Species of Concern in Arizona, California, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming 

In the video below, notice that each chick has a colored dot on their little heads. This is temporary, used so the keeper can distinguish them from each other:

See many more pictures of the Owlets after the fold:

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Phoenix Zoo Receives Unexpected Fuzzball

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For the first time in over a decade, the Phoenix Zoo has a Spectacled Owl chick. The chick was born on February 10th to the zoo's pair of Spectacled Owls. The pair is quite experienced in rearing young having done so six times in the past, albeit not for some time. After over ten years without a baby, and with the female being 20 years old and the male 15, keepers were not sure if the lone egg laid would be fertile.

To the keepers' excitement, on the 10th of February they heard faint vocalizations coming from the nest box and realized they had a chick! However, it would be over a month until they were first able to peer into the nest box when the chick's protective parents were distracted and finally get a glimpse of the newborn. It was not until April 14th, just over two months after hatching, that the chick would fledge and give keepers a good look at their newest addition.

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Photo credits: Amanda Donagi / Phoenix Zoo

The chick has continued to grow since fledging just over a month ago. It is slowly losing its natal fluffy down, replacing it with feathers. It has been observed flying around its exhibit and exploring all of the perches it has to offer. The chick's gender is still unknown and will be determined at its first health examination.

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