Sunday, 3 July 2016

"Leo" all grown up

Say hello to "Leo"!.. My, hasn't he grown? From an ugly little ball of fluff (yes sorry Meg), to a beautiful elegant long-eared owl.

Owls develop quickly, looking like an adult in only about ten or twelve weeks. It is important for the chicks to mature quick, as they need to learn to fly and hunt for themselves as quick as possible. Many owls mate for life, and so when a female is looking after her chicks the male hunts for himself, the female, and the youngsters... a lot of hunting to do!

Owl chicks tend to grow through their hard feathers on the wings and tail first, the sooner these arrive the sooner they can learn to fly. They begin to edge out of their nest and hop along a branch, this is where our term "branching out" comes from. Flapping their wings they begin to build strength, and even hop up and down in place and stretch their wings a lot.

The facial disc develops at a similar time, again... vital for their hunting skills in locating prey, and then they can begin to practice. Finally the rest of their adult feathers emerge, usually finishing with the loss of a bit of chest fluff and the top of their heads.

Have a look at Leo's development over the past few weeks. He is practically there now, with maybe just a bit more height in his ear tufts to go. Fully grown in 12 weeks... amazing!

He is now living at the Centre, giving foster mum Meg a break at home, and will be on display in a week or so in one of our aviaries. In the mean time the flying lessons begin, and hopefully he will be joining our flying team for the afternoon displays come the Summer holiday opening.

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