Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Will and I had an appointment with a large garden near Garstang where we hoped young Little Owls would now be big enough for ringing. The largish box was meant for Tawny Owls, but Little Owls adopted it quite quickly a few years ago. The adult female was also at home today brooding the young, so we captured her as well as the four healthy good sized young that indulged in plenty of bill clacking and snapping as we dealt with them.

Little Owls

Little Owl

”Tawny Owl” Box

Little Owl

Little Owl

We put the young back in the box and posted the female back through the entrance hole to her young, giving her time to settle in.

Will thought he might know of a Tawny Owl nest in a likely looking tree near Calder Vale, so off we went. It was just as well we did because below the tree a Tawny Owl chick, far from fledging size, tried to hide in the roadside vegetation. The tree hole looked and proved quite shallow and the young but mobile owl had obviously climbed to the edge of the nest, as young Tawny Owls are prone to do, and promptly fallen out.

Tawny Owl

It clacked and clacked while Will retrieved the sibling from the tree, we ringed them both to a clacking duet, then reunited them back in the hole together, our good deed done.

Tawny Owl

I think most species of owls use bill clacking, where the bill is shut rapidly and repeatedly, with a sound like two sticks hit together rapidly, as part of a defensive strategy and posture when they are not yet ready to fly. When threatened the owl fluffs up its feathers making it look twice as big, and to further increase its size, the bird raises its wings over its back like a large fan and spreads its tail feathers. Add some hissing and bill clacking and a young owl might look pretty scary to a predator. Potential enemies can find this posture very convincing and quickly leave the young owl alone.

One of the biggest clackers I ever encountered was this Great Horned Owl in Canada, and as a potential predator to the young owl I can honestly say I was impressed with its defence mechanism and treated the bird with some caution.

Great Horned Owl

On the way home I called in to a farm at Out Rawcliffe to mop up a Tree Sparrow brood. It was very disappointing to find one young only with three eggs that didn’t hatch. These things happen but at least the whole of the nest information can go on a BTO Nest Record. In any case all was not lost as I found another Swallow nest to follow and record.


Pete Woodruff said...

A most interesting and entertaining post Phil with loads of the Ahhhh factor and excellent images. The Tawny Owlet was very lucky you had decide to go to Calder Vale otherwise a goner I reckon.

eileeninmd said...

Awesome post on the owls and wonderful photos. What a cool experience!

Stu said...

Well you have to say those are pretty cute.........

Tabib said...

Beautiful cute four Little Owls.
I have never seen or done any banding. Will that little ring hurt that bird when it grow old?

Phil said...

Tabib, the owls legs are fully formed at that age and the rings free to move around and up and down the leg. Ringing provides a lot of information about life history,longevity etc.

Mark Young said...

That first post with the 4 chicks is a classic! The little chicks don't look overly happy with you at all!
Some very nice images.

Unravel said...

Those young Little Owls look really funny to me. They look like old little grannies.

NicoleB said...

OK, these are just wordlessly beautiful!
Job well done!

Lana Gramlich said...

So wonderful. Thanks for sharing. :)

Captain Shagrat said...

Haha those four little baby owls look like something out of Rubharb and Custard, lucky the escapee had you around, welldone

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