Baby owls are so cute and fluffy that they don’t look like they will grow up to be expert hunters like their parents.
Owls are often nocturnal and so it can be hard to see baby owls. They are also well camouflaged to prevent predators when they are so vulnerable.
Baby owls have a unique name and are not called chicks, instead, they are called owlets.
It is not clear why they have a unique name but I am glad they do as it is cute.
Male and female owls are just called owls and do not have a special name like swans do.
Owl eggs are white
Baby owls start life as an egg and most owl eggs are white. Eggs are usually laid in late January or February.
Barn owl eggs are laid on a nest made of owl pellets and so become dirty over time.
Unlike ducks and geese, owls hatch their eggs at different times, spaced out by two days.
All birds can only lay 1 egg a day at most but owls start to incubate their eggs immediately unlike ducks and geese which wait until all eggs are laid before incubating.
The benefit for owls of the staggered hatching is not fully clear but it is thought to give the first chick the best chance of survival. This could be due to food availability and ensuring that one chick is big as quickly as possible to stop predation.
However, Pygmy Owls seem to break this rule and hatch their eggs at the same time.
Eggs take between 3 to 5 weeks to hatch after laying, depending on the species of owl.
The number of eggs laid by owls depends on food supply
Owls can lay between 1 and 14 eggs depending on how much food is available.
In years when prey populations are high then owls will lay more eggs than when prey is scarce.
Male owls do not incubate eggs only females. While sitting on her eggs the female owl will lose the feathers on her belly, which helps to keep the eggs warm against her skin.
If a lot of eggs are laid then there can be 2 weeks between the first and last eggs hatching.
Owls are not very good at building nests
Owls may be good at some things, but nest building is certainly not one of them!
Barn owls lay their eggs on top of years worth of owl pellets – not the nicest place to start life!
Many owls use the old nests of other birds such as cavities in trees made by woodpeckers.
Some owls, such as Great Horned Owls use old nests in trees or on cliffs that were made by hawks or crows.
Holes in cacti made by woodpeckers are the nesting sites of Elf Owls.
Burrowing Owls do not live up to their name and instead of burrowing themselves, they use the tunnels created by ground squirrels, badgers, or prairie dogs.
Or just scraping a small dip in the ground is good enough for the short-eared Owl or Snowy Owl.
So as you can see owls are not great at the nest building part of raising baby owlets.
Baby owls are a soft downy white color when they hatch
The white downy feathers that owls are born with are replaced with darker ones after only a few days.
The down is wet when they are born but the dries to become fluffy. Baby owls legs and skin are pink.
As the owlets become fledglings they will have their main adult feathers but with a few wispy down feathers on the top of their heads.
Once juveniles all the wispy feathers are gone.
Barn owls only have wispy feathers left after about 55 days and most of these are gone by 65 days.
Baby owls are born blind and unable to move or keep themselves warm.
Baby owls are born blind and unable to move or keep themselves warm so the female owl does not leave her owlets.
They are helpless for the first couple of weeks. They cannot move much or keep themselves warm for some time.
Being born undeveloped and unable to move on their own soon after hatching is called altricial.
Many birds are born this way including eagles, woodpeckers, hawks, herons and most songbirds.
Baby owls will start to lift their head after about 3 days and by day 6 they can snap their beaks and start making pellets.
It can take over 20 days before the owlets are able to start feeding themselves with food brought to the nest.
Baby owls sleep face down
The way a baby owl sleeps is funny and unusual due to their heavy heads. Baby owls sleep lying face down and cannot hold their heads up due to the weight.
Even if on a branch a baby owl will slump over, gripping on with their talons and they do not fall off as their feet remain closed.
Researchers have discovered that owls have REM sleep, which is the sleep that we have when we dream. I wonder what baby owls would dream about!
Baby owls can stay with their parents for 9 months
From being laid as an egg it can take up to 60 days for a baby owl to fledge.
Once fledged the baby owls will stay close to the nest and still call for food from the parents.
Adults owls will still bring prey for their young for 5 months after they have fledged, which can be around 9 months after they were laid as an egg.
Baby owls are only as big as a baby chicken when hatched
Owl babies are tiny compared to the size they can grow. Once grown a snowy owl can be 2.5 feet tall but starts life as a helpless baby and only 2.5 inches long.
Baby owls eat only meat
Baby owls will food brought by their parents, which will be ripped up and fed to them. Baby owls eat mammals, birds, reptiles
I hope you enjoyed reading about baby owls, check out these other great articles about baby birds and bird facts.