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.
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.