Birds | January 8, 2022 11:29 PM | Hang Bona
Barn owl chicks have been known to consume each other. But this is the first time I’ve captured the behavior of a barn owl chick on tape. Barn owls, unlike other birds of prey, sit on their eggs as soon as they lay them, which means the eggs hatch weeks apart and the barn owl babies can be alarmingly different sizes.
When things are tight and there isn’t enough food for everyone, the younger chicks become vulnerable to their siblings’ attacks.
However, in this case, the perpetrator was a girl from a prior clutch. Solo was the lone barn owl chick born from this couple’s first brood, which was laid in the spring. She is now 12 weeks old and able to fly, but she is still somewhat reliant on the adult birds for sustenance and spends most days roosting on the nest.
The fact that this pair went on to lay a new clutch in the same nest box, with Solo still there, is uncommon. The male barn owl brought in a much-needed supper this week, after three days of weather prevented the adults from hunting. Solo was the first barn owl baby on the scene when the female called out that meal had come.
She dashed inside the nest, seized the food from the adult female, and downed it all in one go. She hunted about for more, and eventually found a mound of week-old barn owl hatchlings writhing undefended on the nest’s floor.
Then one of them wriggled, triggering Solo’s primal instincts. Solo seized her wriggling sister and flew out of the nest box with the chick in her beak before the adult female could respond.
I was shocked after witnessing this barn owl family from the minute they decided to raise their young in this nest box. But this is nature, and I’ve had to remind myself not to imbue the story with human sentiment.
It’ll be fascinating to see how the parent birds react to Solo now.
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