The owl files – Chapter 3: It’s complicated!

05 December 2022

It’s complicated!

Early this morning I woke to a number of angry-sounding “HOOOOO!!!!  .   .   . HOOOOO!!!!” calls coming from one of the adults – probably the male.

I normally only hear these when there is a threat (often a mammalian predator such as a dog or genet), or an intruder (usually another Spotted Eagle-Owl straying into the Delta territory). Whatever the cause, the male was obviously still disturbed – and afterwards spent long periods giving his ‘whoooo .  .  . whoo’ calls from the corner of the tower.

Once it was light, I climbed over the wall to check on the chick. No sign of food in the nest, but the chick was dozing again – suggesting that it had eaten well during the night.

I was wondering if the cause of disturbance during the night wasn’t possibly one of the fledgelings so I climbed out onto the lower roof to check all the possible roosts. The male was on his own in the Evergreen Oak, .   .   . and what looked like the last fledgling to leave was on the parapet at the back of the building. This owlet has been missing for a week and, although I can’t be sure, may have returned because it was battling to catch enough food.

Normally, there wouldn’t be a new chick in the nest at this stage, and the bond between the male and nearly-independent fledgling would still be strong. It (the male) would typically still share any prey with the youngster. The female’s bizarre behaviour this season however seems to have changed the rules and the male’s reactions could indicate that the first brood are ‘on their own’. I hope they can cut it!

By Geoff Lockwood