moobird: Ms. Darcmay
OhioCheryle: Ms. Darcmay :)
darcmay: Thank you, We are glad to see you all as well!
EagleEye_: We want to welcome Ms. Darcmays Pre school class today to our live Q & A and hope that we can share some great information with your students today
darcmay: We are all very excited and ready to learn, and we appreciate this wonderful learning opportunity
EagleEye_: Have the kids been watching the owlets since they were little eggs?
EagleEye_: This is a wonderful way to learn about wildlife and the animals that surround us, we were not this lucky when I was a kid to see up close what goes on in the nests and what it takes to raise wild babies.
EagleEye_: You submitted questions from your students about the owls so if your ready I will post the questions first then the answers, ready??
darcmay: yes we are ready to learn :) thank you.
EagleEye_: Do owls see in color?
EagleEye_: That is a good question!
EagleEye_: They can see color, especially “red” which is the color of blood and meat, they are nocturnal and have a poorer color vision then their day time counter parts like hawks and eagles but what they lack in seeing they make up in their hearing.
EagleEye_: Is this box located in the city and if so, does this make it harder to find food?
EagleEye_: That is another really good question and some thing that I have started to study the difference between city owls and country owls and how the differences affect them.
EagleEye_: This nest is located in Oceanside California which is an urban area in southern California. During the first year the nest was here prey was very plenty, this year we are seeing a decline in the number of prey brought back to the nest so this shows that they are good hunters and do bring down the number of prey.
EagleEye_: For them to continue to thrive at the rate they had in the previous year they need to have a total “food chain” that also encourages the rodent population like a farm. Not having that condition here with it being more developed we are seeing the impact of them raising 6 owlets last year and only 2 owlets this year.
EagleEye_: Do owls have a preference for the food they eat?
EagleEye_: The only preference they have is that they are “carnivores” which means a meat eater so they only eat meat, they don’t eat any vegetation.
EagleEye_: Here in Oceanside most of thier diet consists of rats, gophers, mice and rabbits, some times we may see an opossom to,
EagleEye_: being nocturnal they feed on night time rodents mostly but at times we may see an occasional bird or squirrel come in.
EagleEye_: Do owls do a test run before leaving the nest for good?
EagleEye_: Yes, they have a lot to learn when they step out of the nest. The owlets will begin to come out of the nest after sundown and start to “Fledge” which means they will begin to learn flying skills. When they have learned that they will begin to go on hunting trips with their parents and learn the skills necessary to be successful living in the wild.
EagleEye_: Every thing they do will be a "Learned Behavior", some thing they will learn on thier own like hoping around the play ground perches and landing to learning how to hunt by watching thier parents then trial and error.
EagleEye_: They have to learn that they need to stay perfectly still in a tree during day light hours and not attract any attention, they have to learn how to listen for the sound of a rodent in the grass, there is so much to learn before going on their own.
EagleEye_: How many clutches do owls have in a year?
EagleEye_: It is normal for them to only have 1 clutch per year but depending on how fast the owlets learn to be self sufficient and if the rodent population is very high they may have 2 but that is not the normal cycle.
EagleEye_: Do owls have special noises for things like "time for bed" or "I brought food"?
EagleEye_: "? Yes, Syd made a low trilling sound to them while still in the egg, then a different sound to call them to eat, she also makes some chirping sounds to talk to them. They learned the sound of her voice while still in the egg and learned the sound of Mels calls in the night sky. Now after sun down when you watch them they get very excited way before we even see a parent coming in with
EagleEye_: food, this is because they have learned the voice of Mel also and can hear them calling as they come with food.
EagleEye_: How do they learn to hunt on their own, or is it just instinct?
EagleEye_: As I mentioned earlier a lot of this is learned behavior by doing things over and over again and watching their parents and learning from example. After the owlets learn to fly they will follow their parents to the hunting grounds and will watch and learn how to hunt. There will be many many attempts at attacking prey and the parents will help until they are successful at doing it
EagleEye_: Where do owls nest when they don't have a box? do they build nests?
EagleEye_: Barn Owls get their name from nesting in the roofs of old barns and living on farms. For some reason Owls fail at nest making and do not make very good nests. Most of the time they will find an old abandoned hawk or eagles nests or a cavity in a tree and use them.
EagleEye_: How often do owls have to eat?
EagleEye_: They have to eat every night and most of the time several rodents per night to keep their strength and energy up just like we do.
EagleEye_: I see the babies don't always sleep during the day, how much sleep do they need?
EagleEye_: They are pretty much like us, they sleep all the time when they are newly hatched since they expend all of their energy growing so rapidly. As they get older they don’t need to sleep that much and will average about 8 hours per day. A lot of the waking hours they spend grooming each other and play attacking the pellets they regurgitate learning how to use their feet and talons to catch
EagleEye_: How old are owls when they lay their first eggs?
EagleEye_: For their first year they are considered juveniles’ since there is so much to learn in order to survive in the wild with out parents to help take care of them. When they are 2 years old then they find their own territory, begin selecting a mate by calling them if they are a male or listening for them if a female then they will select the nest site and begin a family.
EagleEye_: How long does the mom sit on the eggs before they hatch?
EagleEye_: Normally, 31-32 days for incubation, a lot depends on the habitat, humidity, temperature and then the eggs hatch in the order they were laid (at 2-3 day intervals).
EagleEye_: Do owls have any predators?
EagleEye_: Yes they do, during the day there are Eagles and Hawks that are considered predators then there are other owls like the Great Horn but at night there are also things like raccoons, opossums and snakes that can get into a nest and be considered predators.
EagleEye_: When are owls most active?
EagleEye_: Owls are most active just after the sun goes down and will stay out hunting until the sun starts to come up. They are all most always “nocturnal” which means only being active at night.
EagleEye_: How long do owls normally live?
EagleEye_: The oldest record for a Barn Owl is in Holland at 17 yrs, 10 months, in the US it was 11 yrs 6 months but these are from old records. Today because of all the dangers in the wild it isn’t normal for them to live that long, there are so many things that make survival so hard in the modern world so those were lucky owls. Todays owls living in developed areas are said to live an average
EagleEye_: of only 2 years because there are so many dangers that they have learn to avoid.
EagleEye_: This afternoon it looks like theey are having hoping and taloning lessons in the nest/
EagleEye_: Do you have any more questions you would like to ask me?
darcmay: I have one more question for you after watching them, are they considered "on schedule" in regards to learning and leaving the nest or are they ahead?
EagleEye_: They are right on schedule at this stage in the nest, they will be venturing out side some time this week for thier first close up look at the world. Can you imagine what that must be like to step out side for the first time in your life and not have some thing protecting you on all 4 sides?
EagleEye_: To go from a flat floor to having to perch on branches?
EagleEye_: To understand distance, depth and to hear the out side world? That all has to be pretty scary but they will follow thier parents out into the world and learn to be wild owls.
darcmay: Do they do practice on the perches to build muscles so they can be sure they are ready to fly when its time?
EagleEye_: Yes, that is called "branching" and is a very important stage of baby birds. This way they have the saftey of the nest to retreat into if there is a sign of danger but they learn how to grab the branches and will hang on them and flap thier wings building up wing and chest muscle so they can fly to the hunting grounds with Mel and Syd.
EagleEye_: Our children take about 16 years learning from us what it takes to live in the world, some are slower then others, some are faster, can you imagine what it is like to learn all that in 1 year!
darcmay: this has been a wonderful learning experience. is there anything else you think we should know about these types of owls?
EagleEye_: sure do! how about Do owls have eyelids?
EagleEye_: Yes they do, in fact they have a 3 eye lids, 2 just like ours then one called a “Nictating Membrane” which is just like a reptiles clear transparent eye lid which comes down over the eye to protect it from injury when they are catching prey.
EagleEye_: Do they have neck vertebrae?
EagleEye_: Yes they do and this is what makes them so unique! They have twice as many as we do, a total of 14 vertebrae which allows them to turn their neck around all most all the way, but they have to bring it back, they can’t spin it around.
EagleEye_: How many different kinds of owls are there?
EagleEye_: This is a difficult question because species come and go, but because of DNA studies there is approx. over 150 species but scientists argue about this a lot. Each owl is designed to live in its region of the world, a good example is
EagleEye_: “Burrowing Owl’s” if you look at thier legs you can see how much more leg there is then in other owls and that is because they use them to dig in the ground to make their nests.
EagleEye_: our school is in North Carolina right?
darcmay: yes you are right we are.
EagleEye_: Then you also have the same kind of owls that we have here in Florida besides the Barn Owl we also have the Great Horn Owl, the Barred Owl and the littlest one of all the Eastern Screech Owl. Also native to North America we have the tiniest of all called “Elf Owls” and the biggest of all the Great Grey owl.
EagleEye_: I had a very interesting question asked during a Q & A that had never been asked before and I find it very enlightening that kids noticed this one.
EagleEye_: Sometimes the area around the owlets face seems to reflect light (glow). Is that sometime just seen because of the camera, or do these owls have special feathers that reflect light around the face?
EagleEye_: the effect you can see is the feathers as they reflect the light which is what causes the changing colors making it appear at times to glow and here is the explanation that this nest owner "kanga' gave me to break it all down more.
EagleEye_: ""Bird feathers are made up of many tiny interlocking "strands" that each have even smaller parts to them. Due to their different structure, feathers can have an appearance similar to that of a glass prism breaking light into different colors - this is called refraction.
EagleEye_: Colors that are formed through refraction of light in this way are brighter and more metallic or even shiny looking than those that are coloured by pigments. All the tiny face feathers on the owlets can refract light in the same way so it looks like a shiny reflection."" That's pretty cool isn't it!
EagleEye_: And here is 1 more for you: Do owls have ancestors?
EagleEye_: Yes they do! The earliest “Birds of Prey” were called “Velociraptors” which means 'swift seizer”, this is where the word “Raptors” comes from which describes birds with large talons the hunt from the sky.
EagleEye_: "Velociraptors" is a Latin word, most of our species has a Latin name.
EagleEye_: Have you seen the movie "Jurasic Park"
darcmay: I have, haha but not the children. :) we will be looking those up after this to explain further.
EagleEye_: the Velociaptors in it were given special attention in a special facility because they were the fiercest and also a comment was made about how intelligent they are so they are a very special animal with a mind capable of thinking things through.
EagleEye_: ok, there is a lot of informtion here which I am sure you can get a lot of class time learning about all the different things I've been able to share with you regarding the Barn Owls and thier life in the wild.
EagleEye_: I hope I have given you a special look into Maggie and Boomers world :)
darcmay: Oh you have and we are so thankful for it, I will be copying all of these answers to make sure we take enough time to cover all the topics. You have been great, and thank everyone else for being
darcmay: patient and letting all of the questions be answered.
EagleEye_: Your welcome and we are glad to give you this opportunity, a lot of the chatters enjoy the kids being here and we get to pass information on to any newbies also so that is a win for every one involved, thank you for joining us today.
EagleEye_: Thank you chatters for letting the kids join us today and we hope you all had a great time with us
moobird: Thank you EE and Ms. Darcmay. What I wonderful Q&A. I think we all learned a lot today.
OhioCheryle: EE and darcmay, we all thank you so very much <3