Tuesday 6th May 2014
The 2014 breeding results are starting to reveal themselves now. We are pretty sure we have owlets with both pairs of Tengmalm’s Owls now. Both pairs are taking significant amounts of extra food, as is the Laybourne Aviary in the Main Display. I think we have White-breasted Barn Owlets and Long-eared Owlets. As we speak, one of the keepers is checking out the Striped Owls, as their food intake has been a trifle inconsistent. They have been overdue for a while now. I went to check out the Chaco Owls over the weekend, and I’m happy to say they have two healthy looking owlets which are ‘fat as butter’. They are fully covered in down, and by the next weekend should be old enough to pull from the nest. This may sound a bit drastic, but is unfortunately quite necessary, as it is vital to remove them before the ‘biting season’ starts. This is usually by the end of May. That’s when current year’s adult Hippoboscids, (Flatfly or Lousefly to you and me), start their active life. These flies are specialist bird parasites, sucking the blood of their host, and in so doing, are the vector for Haemoproteus, which can cause acute anaemia in the young of certain bird species. Haemoproteus is harmless to adult birds, but the Chaco Owlets in particular, are very susceptible to this, resulting in inevitable death. By pulling them at an age when they can feed themselves, but before the start of the biting season, and removing them to an indoor location away from Flatflies, they can then safely grow into adults, by which time at the end of the season, they too will have developed resistance to this condition. For more info check out my article 'Fighting Flies'.
On a slightly different note, the Pharaoh Eagle Owlets appear to have ‘made themselves at home’ on the ground at the moment. Mum is keeping a very close eye on them, so they are being well looked after. It just gets a little ‘interesting’ when I try to rake the sand anywhere near them!
See you next week.
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