GREAT GRAY OWLS (Strix nebulosa)
In 2015, a pair of Great Gray Owls (Strix nebulosa) nested at GROWISER. It was the third year they had nested…but this spring and summer proved to be an exceptional "birding" experience for everyone who visited.
March 4, was the first day the mother sat on the nest. In early April, it was obvious that the chicks had started to hatch. By May 8th, four chicks had fledged the nest. Normally, the male would have then fed the fledglings until they were able to hunt on their own…about three months later.
On May 9, the male Gray was killed by a Great Horned Owl. The event of the Gray being carried off by the Horned was actually witnessed, about 1/4 mile from the nest.
The female immediately began hunting, to feed herself and her family.
We made the decision, after consulting owl experts, to try to feed the mother...expecting she would then feed the young owls.
We knew the field where the mother normally hunted. On May 13, within sight of the hunting mother, we attached a live mouse to a block of wood. She immediately came and got it. She flew back to the woods, and gave it to one of the fledglings. She took a total of four mice that first evening. We knew we were in business :)
The community came together, providing traps and rodents, and lots of encouragement. We caught live mice and voles, and fed the mother all summer long. By early July, all four siblings were taking the rodents from us, and hunting on their own. The mother stopped feeding them on July 13. When last seen, in mid-August, 2015, they were all healthy and happy.
More details of the story are published in Leigh Calvez's book, "The Hidden Lives of Owls: The Science and Spirit of Nature's Most Elusive Birds" available from Amazon beginning Aug 16, 2016:
Photos by Andy Huber