Owlets help further study on owl communication - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Owlets help further study on owl communication


NEAR HOUSTON, Minn. (KTTC) -- One-of-a-kind research is taking place while the world watches online. Both blind in their right eyes, Rusty and Iris are non-releasable Great Horned Owls, raising their owlets for the first time in captivity.

"They just kind of self-selected each other," said researcher Karla Bloem. "You can't just plop two birds together and say breed! They might and they might say no I'm not going to."

Bloem has an owl named Alice she uses for education. She wanted to know more about how Great Horned Owls communicate but when she searched for the information she realized it wasn't there.

"The first time I heard the squaks and wild hoots," Bloem said. "I honestly didn't even know what kind of an animal it was."

Bloem knew she needed to do more than just listen to the owls in the wild, she needed to see them.

"Realized if I wanted to get all the vocalizations, the complete vocal repertoire, I had to have microphones in nests recording the piping in the egg before they hatched and all the little sounds and be able to record what's going on with the owls around the nest which is very difficult to do if they're free flying," she said.

Rusty and Iris live in an enclosure with six cameras and microphones.

Their third and final egg of the year hatched on Thursday. It's all the sounds, even from their very first breath of life, that Karla is listening to.

"Everybody knows they hoot but they do a variety of different types of hoots," Bloem said. "They also chitter. That's what people are hearing online. And they also squak."

The information will give researchers a whole new understanding.

"If I can visually have done this like this to be able to develop this list of here's the vocalizations, who says what when and in what context it will help all future researchers understand what's going on with the research subjects much better," Bloem said.

While Rusty and Iris will never be able to live in the wild again, their owlets will be released once mature enough.

To watch the owls live click here.

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