Two baby owls, or owlets, hatched just recently in Ostankino Park. They have already learned to fly, but are still being fed by their parents.
According to the VDNKh press service, only two grey tawny owl couples are nesting in Ostankino Park. The grey tawny owl is listed as an endangered species in Moscow. Now one of the couples has produced offspring.
“The second pair of owls will get owlets soon,” a press service spokesperson said. “We don’t know yet how many owlets will hatch, because the parents are guarding the nest.”
The parents take care of their offspring for the first four months, hunting food for them by night, and protecting them from predators by day. Feeding the baby owls is no easy task – each one eats 5-7 mice a night.
The baby owls leave the nest around a month after hatching. Unlike other birds, they do not fly for the first time, but climb higher up the tree, gripping the bark with their sharp claws and strong beaks. Once at the top, they wait for a couple of days, getting used to the new environment, and only then do they make their first flight to another tree.
By the fifth month, the young owls are able to feed themselves without help and their parents start pushing them to go look for a new territory of their own.
The birds nest in trees with holes in them, and Ostankino Park has only enough such trees for two pairs of owls. The birds swap holes ever so often and nest each year in a new tree. This is essential so that crows, which are the main threat to baby owls, do not remember where they live, the VDNKh press service said.
Ornithologists and volunteers have started monitoring the endangered owl species this year. The owls are only active at night. By day, they sit still up in the branches. If an owlet falls from the branches during the day, they become easy prey for predators. Volunteers keep the owls under watch during the day. If a baby owl falls, they keep it under guard until nightfall.
“The volunteers and ornithologists ask that anyone who sees a baby owl on the ground must not touch it under any circumstance, and must not take it home, but call the Association of Bird Lovers, who will send a volunteer to protect it,” the VDNKh press service said.
At least four different owl species live at VDNKh, Ostankino Park, and the nearby Botanical Gardens today. They include the two pairs of grey tawny owls with the babies, three long-tailed tawny owls, long-eared owls, and Eurasian pygmy owls, the smallest species in the owl family. The grey tawny owls in the VDNKh park zone nest earlier than elsewhere in Russia, laying their first eggs in mid-December.