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Aluco on Incubation Duties

It's been an exciting few weeks in the Yew View tawny box. After last year's failed breeding , after the eggs all broke, I was worried that Aluco was getting too old to breed successfully. I have been filming this box since 2018. I am sure it is the same female, Aluco. That would make her at least 7 years old, which is pretty amazing.

This year, she has laid 5 eggs. The last time she did that, she managed to raise 3 owlets to fledge and I really hope that this could be the case this year too.

The first egg appeared on the 23rd Feb, after she had been roosting in the box for some time, during the day. Having watched this individual for so many years, her unsettled behaviour meant I was able to predict that the first egg would soon arrive.

Aluco relys on her mate, Strix, to feed her whilst incubating. He will bring her food after dark. Sometimes it can be several prey items, sometimes, just a few worms. On some occasions, he calls to her and she leaves the box. I think sometimes he will do a food exchange away from the box, so I am not aware of all the prey she receives.

I had always thought that small mammals would be the main prey items. Although wood mice and voles form a good percentage of their prey, birds feature regularly. These must be taken whilst they are roosting.

Worms and slugs are bought in a lot. It has been extremely wet and a lot of the lower part of the site has been under flood water. The top part of the site is well populated with small mammals and rats are often caught too.

Over an eleven day period, 5 eggs were laid. She started incubating after the third egg. Usually it is on the penultimate egg. Five is pretty amazing, but realistically it is unlikely that all of these will survive. The owlets grow really fast and the youngest owlet will struggle to compete if hatching 2-3 days later. I think that three owlets would be a great result, but we need to be prepared to accept that, if the youngest get as far as hatch, they are very likely to be lunch for the older ones. Nature can appear to be harsh, but this ensure that remaining owlets have the best chance of being strong and healthy.

Tawny owl incubation is 30 days. During this time, Aluco will rarely leave the box. If she does, it is after dark and usually for around 15 mins, for a comfort break and to drink and sometimes bathe.

The rest of the time, she need to be vigilant. Other species are often interested in the box. Squirrels can be the biggest threat. They can be pretty bold but, once on eggs, she is pretty fierce....

Strix has been pretty good on the whole, regarding prey deliveries. Aluco gets at least one rodent every 24 hours, with some additional worms and slugs and sometimes birds. If a long period has passed, then it is obvious that Aluco is very hungry.

The camera in this box is a mini PTZ. This means it can pan, tilt and zoom. If I am on site, I can zoom in on her. The camera makes a slight noise, which she can obviously hear. SHe is used top the camera, though and you can see her react to the sound, but she is not worried by this. The zoom allows us to really appreciate the intricacies of her plumage. I feel very privileged to be able to film this beauty and to share her story and allow others to also watch her via my live stream camera.


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