While on lockdown with her mother in Ribadavia, Spain, wildlife filmmaker Ana Salceda discovered a baby barn owl who had fallen from its nest. It was “an unlikely companion during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Salceda took the weakened raptor to bird rehabilitation expert Pablo Rodríguez Oitabén, who nursed the owlet back to health with a few months of shelter, freshly-dead rodent meals, and acclimation to the local landscape. They named the bird Alba.
The chicks are at first covered with greyish-white down and develop rapidly. Within a week they can hold their heads up and shuffle around in the nest. The female tears up the food brought by the male and distributes it to the chicks. Initially these make a “chittering” sound but this soon changes into a food-demanding “snore”. By two weeks old they are already half their adult weight and look naked as the amount of down is insufficient to cover their growing bodies.
By three weeks old, quills are starting to push through the skin and the chicks stand, making snoring noises with wings raised and tail stumps waggling, begging for food items which are now given whole. The male is the main provider of food until all the chicks are at least four weeks old at which time the female begins to leave the nest and starts to roost elsewhere.
By the sixth week the chicks are as big as the adults but have slimmed down somewhat by the ninth week when they are fully fledged and start leaving the nest briefly themselves. They are still dependent on the parent birds until about thirteen weeks and receive training from the female in finding, and eventually catching prey.
Watch more owl videos and more rescue videos, including:
• Imping an injured owl’s wing to make it stronger
• Rescuing a tiny, orphaned, newborn two-toed sloth
• Baby orangutan Peanut doesn’t want to climb the ropes
• Releasing Rocky the eagle back into the wild