Why owlets go out on a limb be­fore fly­ing off

Accrington Observer - - WILDLIFE -

ONE of the big­gest prob­lems in in­tro­duc­ing peo­ple to wildlife is that there just isn’t enough cud­dly stuff to shout about.

Fox cubs, bad­gers and cute baby robins are fine, but what about drag­on­flies, spi­ders and worms? Not many peo­ple want to get close to them, and men­tion slugs and it’s ‘noooo waaaayy!’

So imag­ine my de­light when one of our pho­tog­ra­phers spot­ted some fluffy baby tawny owls sit­ting in a tree in Bolton. Young owls are known as owlets. I can feel the cute­ness fac­tor ris­ing as I men­tion the word and I have heard sto­ries of them pos­ing for days for pho­tog­ra­phers in the same tree. There is ac­tu­ally a term for this, it is known as branch­ing. A week or so be­fore they are ready to fly off on their own they will wan­der out onto a branch near to the nest and wait for mum and dad to feed them.

A lot of the time they are well hid­den be­cause trees are pretty green at the mo­ment but some are quite easy to spot. They can watch the world go by and watch fu­ture prey scur­ry­ing along the wood­land floor be­low them. Some will ac­tu­ally tumble to the floor where they will con­tinue to be fed.

Kindly passers-by will some­times pop them on a perch or try to reach the nest, there is no real need for this. The owlets are quite ag­ile and will hop onto branches if there is dan­ger around. Did you know that the ‘too-wit, too-woo’ call of tawny owls will ac­tu­ally be two birds and not one. At night and in early morn­ing the too-wit you hear will be a fe­male, with the male re­spond­ing with a too-woo.

An­other con­fu­sion caused by owls in gen­eral is owl pel­lets – this is not owl poop.

Owl pel­lets are made up of undi­gested food – fur, bones, teeth, feath­ers and shells – that the owl spits out. Not so cud­dly now?

Th­ese beau­ti­ful birds are mainly found in wood­lands and tend to keep away from ur­ban ar­eas. In the north west we have around 1,000 pairs recorded so they will be in a wood near to you.

Tawny owls are a mot­tled grey with a big, round head and large, dark eyes. They have rounded wings.

We also have white­faced barn owls, smaller lit­tle owls and morn­ing fly­ing short-eared owls in the re­gion, so we are lucky. So keep your eyes and ears open as you wan­der around you lo­cal woods this week and you may be lucky enough to spot an owl ready to fly the nest after a week of branch­ing out.

The Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side is ded­i­cated to the pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of the wildlife. To be­come a mem­ber go to the web­site at www. lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust, call 01948 820728 or go to cheshire wildlifetrust.org.uk.

Peter Hunter

Tawny owlet

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