Friday, April 16, 2010

Answering a quick question - Does a male stop hunting to get the female to hunt? No.

I just want to clear up a little confusion. People have asked me if McGee deliberately fails to bring prey to the nest in order to get Molly to leave the nest and do her share. No! The male hunts like crazy, doing everything he can to provide for the nest of babies. It's just not that easy to hunt! The prey isn't sitting out there paying no attention. They scatter when there's an owl nearby and it only takes one alarm cry from one species for all the other species of animal to know there's a predator nearby. As clever as owls are, and as well adapted as they are, so are the rodents they seek.

Also, people have wondered if Molly leaves the nest to "teach the babies some independence". No. Many barn owls don't leave the babies at all, until they've truly moved off on their own, then she begins to hunt. Molly is one who does go out, but it isn't to teach the babies anything. She "should" be guarding the nest. The babies are pretty helpless and wouldn't learn anything if they were attacked while mama was gone.

We need to be careful not to impose our own manipulative ways of doing things onto the owls. It helps to ask yourself, "Does this help or hurt the survival of the babies." In this case, if she's truly hunting (she may just be taking handoffs from McGee - we don't know which she's doing), she is adding to the amount of food the babies are getting. There was one night in particular where the hunting was very sparse and she may have felt compelled. Or not. We don't know. On the other hand, if she's going far enough afield to hunt and doesn't pay attention to guarding the babies, the whole clan could be wiped out.

We don't know exactly what Molly does when she's out, but we do know that McGee is not deliberately passing up prey to manipulate Molly's behavior! A barn owl male w/ babies would not pass up prey without a good reason.

Note that Owlivia stays w/ her babies and she's also in the same town, San Marcos, but her mate seems to bring in more prey. I'm not absolutely sure cuz I haven't taken notes on Owlivia's nest but it does seem that he does a better job. Again, I think Molly and McGee are new parents and perhaps Owlivia and Owliver are experienced. We can't know everything about them, though if we aren't watching the behavior of the owl parents after they leave the nest.

The next blog under this one is also new! This is just a separate note to today's discussions.



Janet said...
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Cindi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cindi said...

You mentioned the need for a perch outside the owlbox for the owlets when they start to fly. Did you see that Carlos constructed a dowel patio for them?

wess_liana said...

Thank you thank you thank you for addressing the question of whether Molly's "hunting" (if that's what she's doing) is normal! I've suspected for awhile that she's just inexperienced and is spending way too much time away from the owlets. The chat room seems content to say "hey, she came back with a mouse, so she MUST be hunting!" but nobody's ever SEEN her catch the mouse... they just assume that she did. As you've said, she could be getting a handoff from McGee (who doesn't want to be mobbed by the kids) or she could be getting them from a 'cache' that McGee's building nearby. Hopefully, she won't have to learn my trial and error that it's a bad idea to be gone so long. THAT would be a tragic day in the owlbox! Thanks for being a calm voice of reason through all the mass speculation (((hugs))) -Liana

Kathlene said...

ditto on what wess_liana wrote.I'm loving your blog and learning so much. There was a comment once, that 'hey maybe owlivia is molly's mom, lol.
thanks again Stacey. I am in the process of reading about your special Wesley. Thanks!

DJ Sommers said...

Just read your blogs for the past few days. Thank you for keeping us informed on what you have learned. Regarding Molly leaving the nest and Owlivia staying, I have checked on Owlivias nest box a couple of times in the last few days and she, too, is leaving the babies. I don't know how long she is gone, but hopefully not as long as Molly. I do think that Molly is nearby and keeping an eye on things - at least I hope so.

I, too, have been a bit concerned about the immediate environment being sufficient to support fledging. It is hard to tell how close the tree is to the nest box, but it looks like the closest branches are a bit thin.

Two friends and I will be coming to see you in Julien and are looking forward to seeing you in person and hopefully getting a chance to talk to with you. We are bringing our books for signing! Keep up the good work with your blogs. You have many fans very interested in what you have to say!