A Tawny Owl's first 100 days (p. 2)


Stage 3: After fledging -- growing up (age 32 to 100 days) continued

Days 60-70. On Day 60 Sophie's wings were nearly full grown, but just one single adult feather has appeared on her chest and her head is still fluffy like a chick's. Her head will stay fluffy until after Day 85. The photo for Day 65 shows those big strong wings and a fully developed tail, but underneath she still has chick down. On Day 70 (right) the first adult feathers on her chest are coming on nicely. The facial disk is not completely developed.

Day 60 -- Maybe you're not dialing the right number. . .

Day 65

Day 70

Days 75 and 80. Facial disk still growing to full size. The pic for day 80 shows that the ring of darker ear feathers around the rims of the two eye disks is now almost complete. These and the previous three pics also show that the growth of the mature chest feathers is quite a slow process.

Day 75

Day 80

Day 85. Anticlockwise from top: The first photo of her with wings spread shows that in back view and with her head out of view she's now indistinguishable from an adult. The next photo, however, shows that even at this late stage only the very first adult feathers are beginning to grow on her head (right behind the dark ear feathers) and that chest feather growth is still under way. The last two pics are just to show her face in close up and (bottom right) the curious nictitating membrane that is sometimes drawn over the eye. This, of course, has always been present.

Day 85 -- let's terrify the budgie!

Day 85

Day 85 -- still a childish face

Day 85 -- nictitating membrane

Days 90 to 100. On Day 90 head feather growth is at last under way, now covering about half the back of the head with adult feathers. By Day 95 the process is complete. The last three pics show Sophie looking pretty much as she does today, the only difference being that her beak has grown longer. The photo for Day 97 also shows the "beard" that develops under the beak during later stages. If you look at the pic for Day 70 you'll see this is not there.

Day 90

Day 95

Day 97

Day 101 -- a grown-up miss

Day 101

What next?

For many chicks who started life as an egg in the last 10 days of March and who hatched towards the end of April, it's now approaching the end of July. From being laid as an egg to Day 90 it's been about four months, and from hatching to Day 90 three months. Despite their adult appearance now, the chicks will stay in the company of their parents until August and perhaps some way into September. From September, though, the parents are beginning to look ahead to the next breeding season, and this means that the current year's owlets must be moved on, out of the parents' territory. The four- to five-month old owlets become "floaters", young owls without a territory. Young males must hope to find, or win, a territory, and young females will be looking for a mate with an established territory.


Do tawny owlets ever stay with their parents?

The answer may be yes, but the evidence from ringing studies is against it. Sophie's parents are not breeding this year (2007), but as of late April they are being accompanied by a second female. Could this be one of the youngsters born last year, or is it another bird who's been accepted into the territory from elsewhere? The evidence is presented on page 28 of the Tawny Owl Nesting Diary.


More on tawny chicks

May 2007: There are more photos and discussion of orphaned chicks in the Owl Gallery, page 3.

March 2008: Sophie's mother has returned to her nestbox, so there's a Tawny Owl Nesting Diary 2008 (currently active).

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