Why owlets go out on a limb before flying off
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.