|Pictures from the Long-eared owl's life|
Long-eared owls are relatively abundant in the Czech Republic. Yet few people know of them - we cannot see them at night and they use their perfect camouflage during the day. These owls usually nest in old crow or magpie nests, but they have started to use nesting boxes that we had installed for kestrels in the Břeclav region years ago. So we installed a camera in one of them and thanks to that we can watch the nesting process along with you.
Mgr. Libor Opluštil
Český svaz ochránců přírody Břeclav
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27.2.2019 - Today we installed the new camera-equipped nesting box, replacing the existing one.
27.2.2019 - The female owl flew into the box soon after dusk!
1.3.2019 – The owls flew into the box soon after dusk, they seemed to like it.
4.3.2019 – Today, for the first time, the female owl stayed in the box even during the day! It looks promising!
9.3.2019 – The female Long-eared owl showed us the first egg! She laid it on March 8 or 9; the young one will hatch in 28 days, i.e. around April 5. The female owls start sitting as early as the first egg is laid and the young ones thus hatch one after another.
10.3.2019 – The male owl brought the vole.
10.3.2019 - The second egg is here!
11.3.2019 - The female owl enjoying the spring sun.
13.3.2019 - The third egg appeared in the nest. The Long-eared owls usually lay 4-5 eggs, so this number should not be final.
14.3.2019 - This evening the female owl had to defend the nest again before the attack of another owl. It can be seen that he still has only 3 eggs under him.
15.3.2019 - On the night of Friday, the female layed a fourth egg.
16.3.2019 - The male owl brought the vole.
17.3.2019 - The owl added the fifth egg today or yesterday.
24.3.2019 - This morning a buzzard appeared near the nest. The female owl immediately took a threatening position to intimidate the intruder.
24.3.2019 - When intimidating a buzzard, the female raised a little ear in the nest, and there were six eggs in the clutch! She probably layed it a few days ago (March 18?). It looks like the owls have enough food and dare to feed a higher number of pups than usual.
3.4.2019 - Sometimes landing fails - especially when strong wind blows.
5.4.2019 - The hungry female swallowed the vole in seconds.
6.4.2019 - Phantom in front of the camera.
7.4.2019 - The female is still covering her nest with her body, but in the evening she flew away. The first chick is already there!
7.4.2019 - The male brings the prey to the nest. But if the food supplies are sufficient, the male can keep the voles to himself.
10.4.2019 - Unfortunately, the oldest chick died today without obvious cause. But there is at least one other chick in the nest, which has just hatched today, others are not visible below the female. The video captures a female as she eats the hatch of the egg shell.
13.4.2019 - The role of the parent pair of Long-Eared Owls is different - the male feeds the family and the female cuts it and feeds it to the young (the male cannot do that).
13.4.2019 - The female left the nest for a few minutes and showed what she was hiding - 2 chicks and 3 eggs. Vole store is sufficient - at least 13 in „the pantry“!
19.4.2019 - Dramatic situations are taking place around the nestbox for several nights. The male caught and brought 4 voles to the nest tonight. The female immediately start to feed hungry chicks. Three voles were put in the storage in the corner of the nestbox. However, around 22 pm, a female Tawny Owl appeared, which is thicker than the Long-Eared Owl. With its vigorous attacks, the Tawny Owl drove the female out of the nestbox and gradually took away all the accumulated prey. She did not hurt the young chicks because they were fortunately quite big. However, it cannot be ruled out that she may have caused the death of the first chick and the disappearance of two other newly hatched chicks in recent days. Only two chicks and one egg, which is probably unfertilized, were left in the nestbox. Somewhere in the surrounding area, Tawny Owls are also likely to have their chicks, and robberies in the nestbox make it easier to find food.
21.4.2019 - The male has caught a field mouse and brought it to the nest. The chicks are quite big now, but swallowing the whole mouse is not so easy (especially with such a long tail!).
21.4.2019 - The young long-eared female owl is scared of the stronger tawny owl and prefers to vacate the site. And the female tawny owl is taking away its loot again.
21.4.2019 - The male handing a vole over to the female.
21.4.2019 - As long as the chicks are small, they are dependent on the female, who, unlike the male, can feed them. The male can't (as seen in the video). He can only bring the food to the nest.
24.4.2019 - The passing on of the prey does not always take place as expected…
28.4.2019 - The large chicks can no longer hide under their mum. But she still stays with them and guards them. The chicks look curiously around the box.
28.4.2019 - Today was a big day for the owl chicks. Along with the project partners and other owl enthusiasts, we ringed the chicks and shared a few interesting facts about the lives of our owls. Children in particular were thrilled by meeting the little owls, being allowed to look at them closely and caress them.
28.4.2019 - The male faithfully keeps bringing food into the box. As the female is no longer with the chicks, he tries to pass the caught vole to the young. But that fails and the male leaves with the vole after a while.
29.4.2019 - Although the chicks look like grey balls, the 'adult' feathers on their wings are growing bit by bit every day. They will soon be able to set out into the world and their grey fluffy pyjamas will gradually turn into adult outfits. But they will still have to wait some time for that. In the meantime, they stretch their wings and train waving. It will come in handy on the way out of the box.
1.5.2019 - The young long-eared owls have grown to the size where they are able to swallow a whole vole in one go. But it's not always easy. An adult vole has an average weight of 27 grams, while our young owls weighed 225 and 230 grams on April 28. So one vole represents about 1/10 of their own weight. Could you do that?
2.5.2019 - The long-eared pair changed its strategy in recent days: both the male and female bring voles and field mice to their two adolescent chicks who take them and usually swallow them immediately. As the food is passed on, the adults look around warily to make sure that the tawny owl is not in the neighbourhood. If the young ones are full and not interested in food, neither the male nor the female leave the prey in the box as in the previous days, but take it away immediately. They either consume it themselves or store it somewhere else. Thus they do not leave anything in the box for the crafty tawny owl.
2.5.2019 - Owls cannot focus their eyes like humans and other mammals do. So if the curious chicks want to look at something in a focused way, they have to move their heads from side to side or turn them. The dark cylindrical items in the middle of the box are pellets made up of mouse hair and bones. This is how the owls and birds of prey get rid of the indigestible food remains (but the birds of prey can digest even bones, so these would not be found in their pellets).
2.5.2019 - The female has brought a field mouse in the box. The chicks did not seem too interested at first, but one of them made up its mind in the end and the mouse disappeared into it in less than ten seconds!
2.5.2019 - Thanks to the infrared light on the camera, we can watch events in the box even at night. The naked eye could only see shadows and silhouettes in it. If an infrared ray reaches the owl's retina at the right angle, it looks as if the eye is shining in the dark (like a cat).
3.5.2019 - The female has regrown both lost rectrices. As the long-eared owls are predominantly bringing common voles to their young this year, there must be sufficient supplies of them in the neighbourhood. Having handed the vole over, the female made an excellent jump over both chicks.
4.5.2019 - The pleasure of taking a nap… Let the chicks enjoy it; it will never be the same after they leave the box.
5.5.2019 - The quill feathers grow quickly and require proper care. What else do you do in the box, right?
5.5.2019 - The young owls look curiously at each other and study the entire interior of the box. While doing so, they show us what they can do with their heads and necks. Owl eyes are set in deep holes and cannot move. That is why owls have to turn the whole head – and they can do it up to 270 degrees! This is enabled by their 14 cervical vertebrae (humans have only 7) and many other adjustments.
6.5.2019 - The chicks are so big that they occupy almost the entire box opening, preventing the mother from landing. Finally she succeeded and fed the chicks with pieces of a vole for more than 8 minutes. She is no longer so nervous and wary while feeding – the tawny owl has probably moved elsewhere and the conflicts have ceased.
6.5.2019 - The young long-eared owls are watching the buzz around the box. When they feel endangered, they stretch high, narrow their entire body, erect the 'ear' feather and screw up their eyes. Sometimes they even turn their body a bit to make themselves even more discreet. It works perfectly for the adult birds thanks to the colour of their feathers; the chicks are training the skill inside the box.
6.5.2019 - Although it came unplanned, it could be expected. The chicks were already big and were balancing boldly on the edge of the box. And then it is just a matter of losing balance while stretching the wings – and that's it. But nothing happens, the chick is light and able to slow down the fall efficiently with its wings. With the help of its talons, beak and waving of the wings, it climbs the branches of the nearest bush. The parents will continue feeding it there for a few more days until it gradually learns to hunt for food on its own. Its sibling, apparently surprised by the event, will follow the example in the coming days.
8.5.2019 - The female has brought another vole to the box. The chick gradually gains the necessary confidence and is able to stay on the edge of the box. They swapped their feeding positions this time: the mother is inside the box and the chick sits in the inlet opening.
9.5.2019 - Tonight the second chick left the box. It had spent the day sitting and lounging about, but it became more active with the arrival of the night, jumping restlessly inside the box. In the end, the young owl decided to go on an adventure and set out for its first flight.