Originally posted Monday, 10 March 2014 09:53
I updated the website a while back and intended to do a live chat session specifically about the topic of the 2014 owlets, but time slipped away from me as I was working on the International Festival of Owls plans and I just plain needed some down time.
The 2014 owlets will be raised different from how Pandora, Patrick, and Patience were reared last year. This year's owlets will be hand-reared to compare their vocal development with wild parent-reared owlets (the 3 P's) to see if it is the same or different. It will also allow me to test theories about the meaning of vocalizations by testing the owlets' repsonse to recorded vocalizations.
I will remove the owlets from the aviaries when they are 2-3 weeks old. They will be reared together in the house, coming to work with me at the Houston Nature Center during the daytime. I will be working on another more portable cam setup so they can be streamed live from home and work (although we may not include audio at work, and will likely only stream them at home after we have gone to bed for privacy reasons.)
Once the owlets are starting to fly they will be moved back into the flight pen so they can be watched on the cams out there again. We will modify the flight pen to lower the ceiling and make their space smaller so that I am able to get them off perches to continue to bring them to work so they can begin their training for their eventual placement as education birds.
Placing the owlets in long-term captive situations as education birds will allow me to track their territorial hoots over their lifetime to see if they stay the same or change. The value is that if their territorial hoots remain constant, and we can show that individual hoots work like fingerprints to identify individual owls, birds may not need to be captured and marked in future research projects, reducing stress on birds and eliminating the problem of failed batteries in transmitters.
I have chosen this rearing method because I believe it will produce the best possible education birds, meaning they will be very comfortable with their role in life, and they will be easy for handlers to work with. They should imprint on each other rather than humans, so they should be less likely to be aggressive with their handlers than human imprinted birds. They will be well socialized with humans so they are not stressed being in front of crowds.
Rusty and Iris will certainly not be happy about their owlets being removed, just as they were upset when I removed their unhatched eggs two years ago. There is a small chance they may lay another clutch of eggs, but it is likely a little too late in the season for that.
What we find out from these owlets this year will help determine the best course of action for future data collection in this breeding project and determine how future owlets are reared.
Originally posted Saturday, 08 March 2014 22:38
Rusty and Iris' first egg of 2014 was laid on Superb Owl Sunday, and conveniently hatched during the International Festival of Owls. The pip was first noticed on Friday, March 7. The next morning the pip was larger, but there were no more good views until almost 10 PM when Iris got off the nest and we got the first views of this special owlet, dry and fluffy already.
Originally posted Friday, 07 March 2014 07:40
The first egg, laid on Superb Owl Sunday, is getting ready to hatch. It's now peeping and chittering inside the egg. In this video clip Victor, a resident wild bachelor owl, is hooting in the distance, getting Rusty and Iris a little riled and hooting back. Alice, our education owl, is also joining into the hootenanny. Iris has been giving the eggs funny looks lately, probably because she knows something is up. Watch for hatching to happen today and tomorrow, during the start of our International Festival of Owls.
Originally posted Monday, 17 February 2014 19:44
Earlier this week an unidentified wild owl paid a visit. She did quite a bit of squawking one night, along with some hooting, and more hooting the next night. She really got Rusty and Iris riled, and both Victor and Rhett (the resident wild males) came in to hoot also. I reviewed spectrograms to see if it might be Pandora, the owlet we lost track of a few days after releasing her. The voice was similar to one of our owlets, but not exact, so I'm thinking it wasn't her. She didn't seem to be with either Victor or Rhett. I'm curious if Victor will take a liking to her, since he's still single as far as I know.
Originally posted Monday, 03 February 2014 12:52
Rusty brought food to Iris in the nest this morning, and Iris decided to go and eat it over on the hatch perch. This left Rusty the perfect chance to get a good look at the first egg of the yeat that he fathered. It must be a magnificent egg since it was laid on Superb Owl Sunday!
Originally posted Sunday, 02 February 2014 15:51
It turns out Stephen Colbert was right: today is Superb Owl Sunday!
We knew Iris was acting "eggy" and spending lots of time in the nest. We now know what egg laying behavior looks like, but didn't see it last night or early this morning. But this afternoon we were sitting in the living room watching Owl TV as usual. Hein mentioned Iris' back feathers were starting to lift up, which they do during egg laying. Then the phone rang and critterwatcher, one of the chat room moderators, said she thought Iris was laying an egg. Sure enough, she was very obviously laying an egg!
It came out pretty easy...it only seemed to take 5 minutes tops. She didn't look as nauseous as last year while laying either.
So tune in on February 5 to watch egg #2 be laid. If Iris is like last year, the eggs were laid EXACTLY 72 hours apart. So that would be about 3:15 PM Central time.
The really egg-citing thing about this laying date is that this egg should hatch the first day of the International Festival of Owls! Wow.
Still no egg from Alice, but maybe she's happy with the replica egg I gave her to encourage her to lay her own.
Originally posted Sunday, 02 February 2014 12:44
Iris is starting to feel eggy. She's started sitting in her nest now, and for longer periods of time. I haven't noticed many belly feathers falling out yet, but that may not start until just before the first egg.
In this video Rusty brings food to Iris, which she eventually accepts. She doesn't eat it, but instead flies to the hatch perch to cache it, then returns to sit on the nest. She will stop eating or eat very, very little before laying eggs. There's only so much room in a bird's abdomen when you need to stay light in order to fly. So not eating could indicate eggs are on the way.
Originally posted Sunday, 19 January 2014 20:49
If you're a regular to the Rusty and Iris live cam, you have probably "met" at least some of our chat room moderators. A few have opted to let you see the face behind the name so you can get to know them just a little bit.
Merle Russell, aka merlibird, lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She spends a lot of time with her grandsons; she has four and loves them all very much. The rest of her time is spent watching Rusty and Iris, the world's most wonderful owls according to Merle! She admits to have a 'thing' for Rusty, but most of you all already knew that.
Maxi23 (Maxine Keene in real life) lives in metro Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She participates in various classes at the gym: power-flex, Pilates, yoga, Insanity and other cardio routines. She enjoys watching and learning about Rusty & Iris and their offspring. She has a great appreciation for the interconnectedness between animals, plants, and minerals.