What’s even cuter than kittens, puppies, and foals? Baby owls!
Tawny owls are not endangered, but they need birdhouses. Deforestation results in fewer trees with natural hollows that owls can brood inside. Many birdhouses in Norwegian forests are rotting and need to be replaced. Scientist Factory, therefore, raised money for the Tawny Owl Project in 2019.
You’re probably wondering how Scientist Factory got to hold the cutest that the animal kingdom offers in our hands. The answer lies with one of our many trade secrets: a man named Morten Bilet. Morten is an all-purpose science expert. He knows pretty much everything there is to know about rocks, telescopes, microscopes, space, meteorites, dinosaurs, fossils, chess, nature, birds. Through his impressive network of other science enthusiasts, he has introduced Scientist Factory to many fascinating people. This time, we met biologist, Vidar Bakken. He usually works with polar birds but is also passionate about the Tawny Owl Project. Vidar took us to visit an owl family during the last weekend of May in 2019.
Vidar has studied tawny owls in the eastern parts of Norway for 25 years. He took us to one of the 50 birdhouses to study the tawny owl population in Norway. Scientists visit the owls every spring to find out which owl has made a home for herself in the house and how many eggs there are. Then, a few weeks later, the babies are counted, measured, and weighed.
We were prepared for a long excursion into the woods, but we were in owl territory after climbing a fence and then a hill. A lovely birdhouse greeted us from high up on the stem of a birch tree.
Vidar didn’t waste any time and quickly got his latter out and up against the tree. We stood back, to not get attacked if the owl-parents got mad. But they kept their distance. Maybe because the owls were accustomed to Vidar’s yearly visits?
Owls are homebodies
Owl mom and pop had been living in this birdhouse since 2015. Tawny owls don’t go far once they have found their partner and a place to live. They live within a 2 kilometers radius year after year, keeping the rodent population at bay. For this reason, they’re popular among anyone with a garden or field.
Vidar soon picked up three unbelievably cute owl babies and brought them to us. Whether they were blinded by the light or sleepy because they are nocturnal is not easy to say. But they fell asleep in our arms or on the ground left and right. They didn’t have enough sense to be scared, so we all got to hold the cuties and place them on our shoulders.
Vidar was very pleased with owl mom and pop. All three babies were dry and weighed about 300 grammes, indicating that they were well-fed. Vidar told us that they would leave the birdhouse and climb a tree within the next few days. The owl-parents would feed them and look after them until they could fly. But as soon as they can hunt for themselves, they have to leave their parents’ territory and find their own. And this isn’t easy. Many owl babies die during their first year of life.