All six eggs in the Texas Barn Owls nest hatched successfully this year, and we are celebrating the excellent care that parents Dottie and Dash have been providing.
As with many of our nests, the Barn Owls experience something called “hatching asynchrony,” which means that the eggs hatch out in the order they were laid, sometimes days apart. In the case of our nest, there were nearly 11 days between the first and last eggs’ hatching, and when the sixth egg hatched, the oldest nestling was around three times the size of the newly hatched owlet! The upside of having so many young at once is that if the parents are able to bring extraordinarily good supply of prey to the nest, then all of the owlets will survive. However, there is a downside—in more challenging years, the youngest or smallest nestlings don’t make it.
This is the reality of being a Barn Owl nestling—sadly, it is rare for all Barn Owl hatchlings to survive to fledging. One 16-year study in Utah found that, on average, only 63 percent of eggs laid hatched and 87 percent of hatchlings survived to fledging. Similar observations have been made on Barn Owl nests in other parts of the world and on this cam.
These are natural conditions affecting wild birds so we will not intervene at the nest. Our Bird Cams are intended to interfere with nature as little as possible, and as in real life, nature shows us beautiful and profound moments as well as moments that seem difficult to comprehend at times. At the Cornell Lab, we look to nature as our teacher and we hope that you, like us, will choose to watch, question, and learn from what we see.
For now, the parents have been able to bring ample prey to the nest and all of the owlets are receiving food and growing as expected. We are keeping our fingers crossed that Dash continues to be an excellent provider of prey—thanks for sharing the experience with us.