Owl Drama Up High In The Forest (and Some of it Low in the Forest)

[Photos and story by Janet Kessler]

front row seat by the wise guy who didn't try to fly the coop today - copyright Janet Kessler

Front row seat by the wise guy who didn’t try to fly the coop today

Today two of three Great Horned Owlets attempted fledging from their Eucalyptus tree nest. It was time. The third has not left the nest. Owl eggs are laid asynchronously, so the youngsters actually mature at different rates and this one was not ready. So he had a front row seat for the drama that followed!

second fledgeling lands on the ground (photo courtesy Kerry Bostrom)

Second fledgeling lands on the ground (photo courtesy Kerry Bostrom)

Animal Care and Control comes to the rescue! (photo courtesy Kerry Bostrom)

Animal Care and Control comes to the rescue! (photo courtesy Kerry Bostrom)

The first fledgeling successfully departed, swooping over to a flimsy pine tree close by.  A second one, with high hopes of succeeding like his sibling, also took off, but immediately fell straight to the ground below his tree where it remained sitting under a bush.

Animal Rescue came and tried tossing the grounded bird back up its tree, but after two attempts and after the chick flew across a field, the parents called to it and it clambered up a hill which was not accessible to people or dogs. It would be safe here where its parents would encourage it to a tree branch without danger of a dog going after it.

Mom and Dad work to save the grounded fella after Animal Control’s attempts didn’t work

The first fledgeling made it to a flimsy limb close by

The first fledgeling made it to a flimsy limb close by

The first fledgling who had made it to a tree close by, discovered that its perch was mighty flimsy and precarious. So it attempted to move. It bent its neck — owls can’t swivel their eyes so their entire head must move when they focus on something — looking carefully at the piece of Eucalyptus bark close by which probably looked sturdier than the limb he was on. The Eucalyptus bark was a familiar item since he had spent all his time until now in a Eucalyptus tree filled with pieces of bark like this. He grabbed the bark ever so carefully with his talons. Oh, no!

Carefully watching where to put his feet for the move

Carefully watching where to put his feet for the move

He slipped! As he strained to gain a footing, we could see that he was held up by only a feather on his wing. It was touch and go for a minute, but the fellow successfully and skillfully extricated himself from that possible dangerous situation. Now he is sitting on that branch without moving. By the evening he’ll probably have the strength to move to a safer spot. Mom and Dad will keep an eye on him and they will continue to feed him, even on that flimsy limb. With all this drama, the littlest owlet probably felt safe remaining in its nest in the fork of the Eucalyptus, where it will remain a few more days until it is ready to fledge.

Oh, no! He lost his footing!

Oh, no! He lost his footing!

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Footing is regained! Whew! It was probably more dramatic for the spectators than the young owlet

Footing is regained! Whew! It was probably more dramatic for the spectators than the young owlet

 

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4 Responses to Owl Drama Up High In The Forest (and Some of it Low in the Forest)

  1. Madeline Hovland says:

    Thanks, Janet, and SF Forest Alliance, for this story and photos that make us realize all over again why trees are so important to owls, especially at this time of year.

    Madeline Hovland

  2. Toni says:

    Thank you for sharing – the photos and the excellent narrative. Very thoughtful and thought-provoking as well.

  3. Tina says:

    Lovely! Fabulous pics. The smallest fella is still in the nest – must be feeling a little lonely. On a more serious note. I saw a dead rat at the side of the steps going out of the canyon. It didn’t look predated – it had blood on the nose. I worried that it may have been poisoned so I moved it to side of path and covered it over with rocks. There is now a small cairn marking the spot. Hopefully it will now not be eaten by anyone. Is there a better way to deal with this? Should I have removed it completely? I didn’t have gloves and don’t like rats that much – even dead ones! It wasn’t a gopher – at least according to the mammals of California guide I’m looking at now! Luckily Satu ignored it – he was after the grass as usual!

    [Webmaster: Thank you for doing that. As far as we know, no rodenticides are used in Natural Areas, but people in the homes around do still use rat poison. It’s possible one got as far as the park before it died.]

  4. janet says:

    Hi Tina —
    Best to remove poisoned rats totally. Also, please spread the word to neighbors about how harmful rat poison is to all the other animals in the area — spreading the word is probably the most important thing you can do to help. WildCare in San Rafael has a page on rodent control: http://www.wildcarebayarea.org/site/PageServer?pagename=AnimalAid_LivingWildlife_WildCareSolutions_Rats
    Janet