Yesterday I was able to take a series of fledgling Short-eared Owl portraits when this young owl perched on a metal post right next to a road in Box Elder County, Utah. By using a vehicle as a mobile blind and being quiet while taking images the young owl without causing it stress, it was focused on hunting more than anything else. There were about five owls in the area including one adult male. The fledglings appeared to be trying to learn how to hunt on their own because they were watching the grassy areas near them and on occasion they dove down to the ground. I didn’t see any of them come up with prey but they may have caught prey and I just couldn’t see it because of the high grasses.
Even though they appeared to be trying to learn how to hunt for themselves that didn’t stop them from hissing when the adult male was nearby which is their way of saying “Feed Me!” also known (more scientifically) as their begging call. At this age they look very much like the adult females but I was able to tell the difference because of their behaviors which included begging and lots of parallaxing. Adults do parallax but in my observations not with the frequency of chicks, fledglings and juveniles. There are also other differences in physical characteristics including their plumage.
I was happy to get these portraits because my last experience with a fledgling Short-eared Owl was the one where we rescued it from the barbed wire fence which was traumatic for the owl and for me so it was nice to see one this close, wild, free and not tangled up in a fence. It was a unique experience to ride more than 90 miles with an owl on my lap but I really don’t want to have to do that again.
I haven’t had any updates on the condition of the rescued fledgling owl but no news is probably good news.
Life is good.