Wednesday, 21 March 2012

15 Ridiculously Adorable Baby Owls

Soft toys have nothing on this little one's plush down! Little Owlet

We're not sure if it's the wide eyes, fluffy down, tiny size or a combination of all three that makes baby owls so adorable, but whichever it is, it works! Unlike many other birds (which are often born naked and gangly) owlets have the advantage, at least in our eyes, of being adorable pretty much from birth. Not only that, but each species has its own particular charm, as proven by this collection of captivating photographs — which will have you longing to reach out and hold these precious little balls of fluff yourself!

Owl8jpg.img_assist_custom-600x590Photo: Kms

The Little Owl may be a notably small breed of owl (growing from 23 to 27.5 cm in length) but it also appears to be one of the bravest. Not only does it often hunt in daylight; it also does so in heavily populated areas. Little owls will stand their ground and not be scared from their perches even by passing humans. Yet, however courageous it may be, there’s no denying the cuteness of the little critter captured on camera here! The genus name, Athene noctua, derives from this owl’s association with the Ancient Greek Goddess Athena, who was often depicted with an owl perched on her head.

Puffy? Who are you calling puffy? Boreal Owlet

Baby OwlsPhoto: Marios Hadjianastasis

Here’s another owl that gets its name from a Greek god: the Boreal Owl, named after Boreas, god of the north wind. Outside of North America, however, it’s usually called Tengmalm’s Owl after Swedish naturalist Peter Gustaf Tengmalm, who was (mistakenly) thought to have been the first to describe the species. Still, whatever its name, we think you'll agree this is one very cute baby owl! We love the juvenile shades of brown... Fluff-ball-tastic!

I can see you! Barred Owlet

Owl2jpgPhoto: Matthew Paulson

This adorable baby has a lot of names for just a little bird. The Barred Owl is also known as the Swamp Owl, Striped Owl, Hoot Owl, Eight Hooter and Rain Owl... among others! Perhaps appropriately for an owl with so many names, the Barred Owl is a particularly vocal species. It’s distinctive cry of “Hoo, hoo, too-HOO; hoo, hoo, too-HOO, ooo” is often heard by people as “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you, all?” No mistaking that for any other bird call... And no mistaking how sweet this doe-eyed little youngster looks, either!

Don't worry, just stay close to me until the big scary humans are gone... Sunda Scops Owlets

Owl3jpg.img_assist_custom-600x450Photo: Irawan Subingar

Only a few weeks out of their eggs, these gorgeously fluffy Sunda Scops Owls are no doubt waiting for their parents to bring them back a tasty treat. Like most owls, Scops owlets are reared by both parents until they’re ready to survive on their own. Scops Owl parents have a habit of using cavity nests abandoned by other species — not that we're complaining about the recycling aspect of this! Found on the Malay Peninsula and surrounding islands, Sunda Scops seem to have adapted well to human habitation, for they are to be found in gardens and buildings.

Hang on, this isn't my nest! Barn Owlet

Owl14jpg.img_assist_custom-600x398Photo: Monteen McCord

The distinctive-looking Barn Owl is not only the most widely distributed owl species but also one of the most widely distributed birds of any kind on Earth. Humans and Barn Owls have a long history together, as Barn Owls have been nesting in man-made lofts and steeples for centuries. Other names for the Barn Owl are Silver Owl, Golden Owl, Church Owl, and the more sinister sounding Death Owl and Ghost Owl — no doubt arising from their white colour and the mask-like appearance of their faces. This little guy doesn't look much like a Death Owl, though. It's a bit too cute for that.

Uh-oh, humans. Act casual... Great Horned Owlets

Owl1jpg.img_assist_custom-600x400Photo: Gary M Stolz

These three aren’t the original occupiers of their nest, but there’s a good chance they’re the cutest! Great Horned Owls don’t bother building their own homes, especially when they can take over those of other birds. They’re also not that fussy, and if no nests are available, they’ll lay their eggs in cliffs, tree cavities, and even in abandoned buildings. This ability to adapt has contributed to their position as the most widely distributed owls in the Americas.

If I don't look at them, maybe they'll just go away... Eastern Screech Owlet

Owl10jpg.img_assist_custom-600x450Photo: Monteen McCord

This baby Screech Owl provides us with an impressive example of the fluffy down that owls are born with. This down helps keep them warm while they are small and exposed to the elements — mainly due to their parents’ lack of nest-building skills! Later on, owls will develop regular feathers, which the Screech Owl will sometimes flatten against its body to disguise itself as a branch stub when threatened. Aww!

Can we stay with you? Pretty please? Tawny Owlets

Owl5jpg.img_assist_custom-600x407Photo: Don Robinson

These poor little babies are orphans, rescued by the Screech Owl Sanctuary in Cornwall. We don’t know how they might have got there, especially since Tawny Owls are famed for aggressively protecting their young. They will fly at dogs, cats and even humans to scare them away from their nests. At least two people in Britain have lost eyes to angry Tawny Owls, including the well-known bird photographer Eric Hosking. So if you happen to see a Tawny Owl nest, best keep your distance — however adorable the babies inside might look!

Well, this is kind of embarrassing... Eastern Screech Owlet

Owl11jpg_0.img_assist_custom-600x398Photo: Monteen McCord

Here we have another Eastern Screech Owl, this one sat next to a lemon so you can see just how tiny it is! Baby owls may look small and helpless but they are actually surprisingly tough. They have to be. As we mentioned earlier, owl parents are not known for their nest building skills, and so the nests in which baby owls are reared can be pretty hazardous places for them! They may not be the right size for the owl family, or falling to pieces by the time they move in. Not only that, but a crowded nest can result in the stronger baby owl pushing its sibling out, usually to its death. It’s no wonder these cute little creatures actually have a strong inborn sense of self-preservation.

We like to wear our down differently so you can tell us apart! Barn Owlets

Owl15jpg.img_assist_custom-600x387Photo: Monteen McCord

Here's are a couple of cute baby Barn Owls. Sadly, the Barn Owl is a particularly short-lived species of owl. If they manage the feat of surviving their first birthday (and most don’t) they’ll most probably only have another year of life in the wild. In captivity, however, it's a completely different story: a captive Barn Owl in England reportedly lived 25 years! Interestingly, for the most widespread owl on the planet, Barn Owls don't hoot. Instead, they make a rather terrifying screech, but can also hiss and even snore!

Look into my eyes... Spectacled Owlet

Owl7jpg.img_assist_custom-600x520Photo: Steve Wilson

Immature Spectacled Owls like this one look more like they’re wearing a black mask than glasses, but all that will change when this little feller gets older and the colours reverse themselves. Living mostly in dense jungles or wooded areas in Mexico (as well as Central and South America) Spectacled Owls like to keep themselves to themselves, and there is still a lot we don’t know about them. We do know, however, that young owls leave the tree hollows in which they nest before they can fly and live in the surrounding branches of the tree. They may live this way for up to a year, all the time being fed by their parents! Talk about being spoiled...

I'd fly away but I don't know how! Eastern Screech Owlet

Owl12jpg.img_assist_custom-600x398Photo: Monteen McCord

Here's yet another adorable baby Screech Owl. Don't let the cute image fool you though! Screech Owl babies are very aggressive when it comes to fighting their siblings for food, and may even go as far as killing their weaker brothers or sisters. Like other owls, Screech Owls swallow smaller prey (such as mice and voles) whole — bones, fur and all! They regurgitate pellets of these indigestible parts later. Not a particularly attractive habit, but one that serves them well as predators without teeth.

OK, now what? Snowy Owlet

266148027699a97336f0bjpg.img_assist_custom-600x524Photo: Glyn Ednie

Most of the time you’d have to be pretty lucky to catch a glimpse of a Snowy Owl. They make their home in the Arctic tundra, remote areas where conditions are harsh. In 2012, however, Snowy Owls have been spotted migrating as far south as Missouri, and even Hawaii! According to bird experts, this is highly unusual behaviour. Denver Holt, head of the Owl Research Institute in Montana, explains that the phenomenon could be linked to lemmings, a primary food source for the owls. A boom in the lemming population may have also caused a spike in the number of baby Snowy Owls, causing the mass migration. This little cutie, named Eubee, needn't worry, though: she'll never be short of food at her home at the Scottish Wool Centre in Aberfoyle, Scotland.

What are you doing down there? African Wood Owlet

Owl4jpgPhoto: Arno Meintjes

As the name suggests, African Wood Owls live mostly in forested areas of Africa, although they can sometimes be found on plantations. This little guy won’t be ready to leave his parents for around four months, or maybe not even until the next breeding season. Until then it’ll share their 'nest' — usually a hole in a tree, or perhaps a spot under a fallen log.

Hiya! Barn Owlet

Owl13jpg.img_assist_custom-600x509Photo: Monteen McCord

Although they're an incredibly successful species, it's actually quite difficult for ornithologists to know the numbers of Barn Owls in the wild. This is mainly due to their nocturnal nature, and the fact that the use of pesticides (especially in the mid-20th century) caused a dip in population numbers. The fact that Barn Owls can, like most owls, fly perfectly silently doesn't make them any easier to detect either!

Remember, although baby owls may not look it, they're built for survival. If you ever come upon one that's fallen out of its nest, leave it alone. As well as the possibility of it giving you a nasty nip, chances are it will be able to scramble back up a tree. Of course, it might not be the right tree, but some loud calls will still let mum and dad know where to deliver the food. And in no time at all the youngster will be winging away looking for somewhere to settle down and have its own little baby owls!


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