Twowits twowoos of rare baby owls
A PAIR of new feathered arrivals at a local wildlife sanctuary could be the rarest types of owl in the country.
Staff at the Exotic Pets Refuge in Deeping St James, near Market Deeping, were shocked when eggs laid by Spot, a spotted African owl, hatched into two baby birds.
Spot had mated with Raj, an Indian eagle owl – and staff at the centre say it is highly unlikely that the two breeds would ever meet in the wild, let alone mate.
Owner and founder of the centre Pam Mansfield said: “The whole thing happened by accident.
“Spot and Raj may have mated before in our aviary, because Spot has produced a number of eggs over the last few years, but none have ever hatched.
“So we assumed it would be safe to keep them in the aviary together, but about six weeks ago, two of Spot’s eggs hatched.
“It would be very unusual for an African and an Indian owl to meet in the wild so the two babies must be very rare. I’ve certainly never heard of anyone else breeding their type.
“They don’t have names yet, as you don’t know the sex of an owl for several weeks, and we have no idea what to call their breed.
“One is very tame and comes into the house with me and watches TV, while the other is very timid and won’t leave its mum.
“They both look like giant balls of dust, but they’re very cute.
“We’ll be looking to keep them here.”
It is not the first time that the baby owl’s father Raj has been in the headlines.
In October last year Raj escaped during a display at Peterborough City Market and was on the loose for over a week until being spotted and recaptured in Newborough.
Owl expert Campbell Murn from the Hawk Conservancy Trust said that the baby owls were certainly rare - but warned that producing hybrid species was not a good idea.
Mr Murn said: “You don’t need to be an expert to realise that an owl from Africa and an owl from India would seldom meet in the wild.
“However, it’s not uncommon for the two species to be kept together in captivity as they are both from the same genus and in biological terms it’s not implausible for them to produce offspring.
“Breeding hybrid owls is not best practice. They may grow up infertile but if they were then to breed with another owl their offspring could have severe health problems.”
Jemima Parry-jones, from the International Centre for Bird of Prey, added: “These baby owls will be rare in the UK.
“It is irresponsible to breed two different types of owl even though the parents, in this case, are genetically similar.”
The Exotic Pet Refuge will be holding an open day on Sunday, May 20. For more details call 01778 345923.
proud parents: The African and Indian owls, and, above, one of the chicks with Pam Mansfield.