Owl Life – From Nest to Further

May 22, 2020 / 5 min read 

Owls are fascinating birds. Everything regarding their life, way of hunting, their skills, and even breeding and nesting is peculiar and quite different than other birds’ way of living. However, as different the later stages of life may seem, the beginning of an owl chick’s life does not differ from those of other birds, but surely that does not make it any less captivating.

Owl’s stages of life

Breeding rituals and timing

During the breeding season, male owls hunt and try to seduce the females by calling and bringing food to her, dancing and spreading the wings. After the male owl has attracted her attention, copulation happens only if she accepts the food. Then the birds perch together and preening happens.Breeding usually occurs during early or mid-spring time since food is the most abundant then. It is of great importance that when the owl has grown enough and is prepared to fledge, prey animals are abundant so they can survive. However, many owl species do not breed in spring but there are variations all dependent on place, availability of a suitable mate, diseases, and the weather. This also depends on whether the owls are migratory or sedentary which greatly determines their way of life. 

The start of life: brooding and hatching

When the owl has brooded the eggs long enough and provided optimal temperatures for hatching, the chicks have a special egg tooth with which they can break the shell and come out. If some eggs are laid longer than others chicks hatch earlier than the rest. This is why an owls’ nest can hold small nestlings to older chicks all depending on when the eggs were laid.After they start hatching, the mother needs to stay with them all the time because owl chicks cannot regulate or maintain body temperature, see or fly. This is when male owls come into play. Namely, in order to ensure that their chicks are safe and have enough food, they do all the hunting until the chicksare grown enough to fledge from the nest and take care of themselves.This makes owls monogamous birds. While the owl chicks are still small these birds stay together (the parents) and do not have any kind of involvement with other owls. This ensures enough food and protection for the little ones. However, depending on whether they migrate or not, the period in which the owls stay together varies. For instance, the Barn owl or the Snowy owl stays together with its mate until they have to migrate. The Little Owl stays with their chicks throughout the year. There are also faithful owl species like the Tawny Owl that stays with its mate for life.

Leaving the nest

Once chicks can take care of themselves they leave the nest. This happens when they’re 3 weeks old and even though they cannot fly yet, they walk and explore the surrounding. People who observe these magnificent birds have said that leaving the nest maybe even safer than staying in it for long because if predators come they won’t find all owls and eat them. So spreading around the tundra and staying safe with their camouflage is a great way to survive.

Becoming independent birds

At the two month mark, owls are ready to fly and hunt. They have watched their parents hunt and fly, learning all the skills they need, so at this point, they are more independent to start their own lives and protect themselves.

Further life

While some owls stay at the same place and don’t migrate, some get ready to leave their nest in search of warmer temperatures. The former ones are fully grown birds that hunt and breed at the same place where they were born. Those that migrate are known to fly for hundreds of miles in search of summer. When they find warmer climates they resume life nesting and breeding until winter arrives and they’re back at their original point.

Written by: Monika Boshkova