The chicks are now 24 days old and more than half grown. For those worried about the cold rainy weather, the chicks are now well equipped to deal with our seemingly endless winter. They still have a thick layer of down, but beneath the down an increasingly thick layer of body feathers are now in place--they will begin to loose their down in the next week and the brown feathers beneath will become more apparent. They will spend much of their lives taking care of these feathers which not only allow them flight but also protect them against the elements.
Mystery Question #1 Answer:
Many people got this one right. The nest in the picture is a barn owl nest. Barn Owls have adapted to substitute man-made structures for the tree cavities in which they naturally nest--notice the barn ow pellets in the entryway of the nest hole. Unfortunately nesting in barns among the hay bales has its hazards. Each year our wildlife care center receives orphaned baby barn owls that have been separated from their parents when the hay bales in which they are nesting get loaded onto trucks and driven to market. Oftentimes the whole stack gets lifted onto the truck at one time and young remain hidden until the bales are unloaded several days later. In many cases it is impossible to determine the exact site where the hay bales originated. The hay bales in the picture were brought to Ridgefield from Eastern Washington.By the time the young were discovered, they were weak and dehydrated and it was not possible to pinpoint where exactly they came from. They are now being raised at the Audubon Wildlife Care Center for eventual released back to the wild. This will take many weeks as we not only have to raise them until they are full grown but also have to give them several weeks to earn to fly and hunt in our 100 foot long flight cages.
Barn owls can have huge nests---up to eleven young in a single brood! This means that there can be up to three weeks age difference between the oldest and youngest owls in the nest. For those who worry about the Raptor Cam red-tails getting enough food, think about what it must be like for a newly hatched barn owl to compete with 10 siblings the oldest of which are already 3/4 of the way grown! In fact, survival does drop off for later hatched nestlings in large clutches but we have seen many cases where the parents were clearly able to feed and care for the entire nest. In the case of the nest pictured below, the parents were clearly taking care of all seven young in this nest.
(All Owl Photos by Mariah Keutchmann)
Barn Owl Nest discovered in among hay bales after delivery to Ridgefield from Eastern Washington.
Forklift removing hay bales stacked above Barn Owl nest
Seven (!) Baby Barn Owls in among the hay bales
Mystery Question # 2: What bird uses this structure for nesting?
Hint: The nest was located on this structure...