Owls eat their own babies

Feeding the eagle owls

The eagle owl (Bubo bubo) feeding is so extensive that I can only show you a small part of what I have experienced based on my picture stories.
The food of the eagle owls (owls) consists mainly of mice, rats, rabbits, hedgehogs, pigeons and crows. One or two days before the hatchling, the eagle owls set up a store of prey in the nest. This means that food is immediately available when the young eagle owls hatch. If there is enough prey in the area, the supply store is always filled with enough food as long as the young eagle owls have not yet left the nest. In the first week after hatching you can hardly see anything of the young eagle owls because they sit under the breast plumage of the female eagle owl. Pay attention to the picture how the throat spot on the female eagle owl looks like, there is also a lot to report about it. The throat patch is not only visible when the eagle owls call, as many have hewn, but rather the throat patch is used when the eagle owls communicate with one another. But more on that later.

Way of life: Young eagle owls (Bubo bubo) under the breast plumage

Food: The young are fed four times a day. At first they only get muscle meat, which the Uhumama gives them bite-sized. The female eagle owl eats the innards, the rat heads and the rat skins itself. When the eagle owls were a week old, I saw the uhumama hold a mouse in front of the beak of one of its young. The little eagle owl grabbed the mouse and tried to swallow it completely. But he didn't succeed the first time, because the mouse got stuck halfway. The Uhumama paid close attention the whole time and when she noticed that the mouse was stuck, she pulled the mouse out a little and the little eagle owl tried again. The unique eagle owl pictures say everything about how attentive and careful the eagle owl treats her young.

Way of life: female eagle owl feeding the young

When the young eagle owls have just reached the age of 8 days, the female eagle owl will leave her young for the whole night. But she stays close and watches the nest with her young attentively. You can find out about disturbances at the breeding site on my page under plumage disturbances at Junguhus. When the female eagle owl comes back to the nest in the morning, she pauses for a moment and you might think she is counting her young. Are all still there too? The young are first warmed up (huddled) and then fed one after the other. Everything goes on very peacefully (without arguments or crowding). Every boy waits for their turn. You can find out more about eagle owl calls and begging behavior on my page under Call of the Junguhus.

Way of life: eagle owl (Bubo bubo) with young

I could often see how the female eagle owl rearranged her supplies in the nest. As long as she was still feeding her young, she always took a rat from the bottom of her store. I think this has to do with the fact that the prey that the male eagle owl struck during the night has not yet completely lost its rigor mortis.

Way of life: Eagle owl (Bubo bubo) at the store

From the age of 10 days, the young eagle owls begin to swallow bitten rat heads completely. When you see the little eagle owls with the bitten off rat head, you don't think at first that they will manage to get it down. As in other areas, the female eagle owl is very caring towards its young when it comes to feeding. She keeps an eye on them constantly to be helpful to their young ones if, for example, something gets stuck in their throats. If there is still something left of the prey after feeding, the female softens the edges so that the little ones can pluck something independently after their rest break.

Way of life: female eagle owl feeding the young

When the young eagle owls are around 14 days old, the female only comes to the nest to feed the smallest. Eagle owls hatch every 2 to 3 days, so they are all of different ages.

Way of life: female eagle owl feeding the young

At around 4 weeks of age, when the young have left the nest, the female brings the food to the youngsters' daily dwellings. In my observations, I was able to determine that feeding takes place alternately and not, as is often claimed, the largest and strongest always get food first. Likewise, I was often able to observe that the little ones give each other food. When the female eagle owl brings the cubs' food (rats) in the evening and lays them on the ground, their cubs are only allowed to take over the prey (rats) if they are OK. in addition there. Nobody would believe these unbelievable observations if I could not prove everything with pictures. It is only a very small excerpt from a large series of pictures of how little eagle owls give food to their siblings. And it can also be seen in the pictures that they are only allowed to eat when the female eagle owl has given her consent.

Habitat: Eagle owl brings food

Could you now understand how the little eagle owl looks after its mother and waits for it to be allowed to eat its food (rat)? When he got the o.k. gets, he does not eat the rat on the spot but makes his way to his siblings with his food. The way there is about 20m long and getting the rat there is not that easy for the little eagle owl. For the first half of the way he takes the rat in the claw and drags it behind. In the second half he takes the rat in its beak, just as the female eagle owl brings the prey to the young. Now pay close attention to the next pictures.

Habitat: eagle owls with rat

Over several breeding seasons I have observed several families of eagle owls gathering and feeding. In doing so, I noticed some behaviors that I had never seen before. Such as a female eagle owl that came with a hedgehog in the evening. The boys were already two and a half months old (they could all fly), she made a short sound and only one of the boys came flying to her. Two other Junguhus remained seated at their respective locations and you could still hear their contact calls. (More information about the eagle owl calls on my page Ruf der Junguhus.) When she had fed the first cub, she made a sound again. The first Junguhu took a few steps back and the second Junguhu came flying. And the same process was repeated with the third Junguhu. But now the right pictures for it.

Eagle owls eat hedgehogs in nature
Way of life: Eagle owl (Bubo bubo) feeding the hedgehog

The feeding with vocalizations just described is not an isolated case. Here are a few pictures from another day, everything happened the same way.

Way of life: eagle owl eating a hedgehog

I'll show you now how calm and civil it is when feeding four Junguhus. The female eagle owl has just given a rabbit to one of her young. Now see for yourself based on the eagle owl pictures how the little eagle owls behave towards each other. Even the siblings are allowed to bite the rabbit. (More information on this under Wandering Eagle Owls.)

Habitat: Junguhus eat rabbits

When the four Junguhus can fly, and only get one rabbit brought back in the evening, one might think there was feed envy. It looks very messy at first when all four stand in front of the rabbit, but only one gets it. One disappears into the ditch with the rabbits and two look after them. The third begs his mother for food. He flaps his wing and trills. In addition, he also holds her foot to prevent her from flying off. When the female eagle owl flew off, you can see again how calm it is. Three cubs watch very calmly and one eats. You seldom see something like this in birds of prey. Now first of all the promised unique eagle owl pictures.

Way of life: eagle owls feeding

When I talk about how harmonious it is when feeding eagle owls, I am often asked: “But what happens when there is too little food?”. For years I could observe that even if there was not enough food, there never was a dispute at the feeding place (Luderplatz). I have seen myself what happens when there are too many disturbances at the breeding site. When the store (prey) of the male eagle owl is empty and the male eagle owl and the female cannot catch enough prey at night. Then the female eagle owl determines which of the young can eat first. It also determines how long each of its young is allowed to eat by making sounds. When there was a shortage of food, the healthiest (strongest) was always allowed to eat first. When the weaker Junguhus first appeared at the feeding place (Luderplatz) in the evening, and there was already food there, they would not go to it until the strongest had eaten. They also sat next to the prey (food) for over an hour and waited until they were allowed to eat. Even when there was a shortage of food, there was never a dispute over food among the Junguhus. On the owl pictures you can now see two sick and one healthy young owl.
If you want to find out more about disturbances and release into the wild, visit my pages: Eagle Owl Disturbance and Eagle Owl Protection and Eagle Owl Release

Habitat: healthy and weak eagle owls

Now, in conclusion, I come to a topic that only partly has to do with feeding eagle owls. How do owls communicate? Spanish scientists claim to have found out that eagle owls mark their territory with droppings and feathers. I can only say that this behavior does not fit the eagle owl at all. I made a completely different observation with droppings and feathers in the eagle owl district. It makes absolutely no sense that eagle owls mark their territory with droppings and feathers. A bird that lives in secret because it is hated (bullied) by all other birds, should mark its territory with excrement and feathers even during the breeding season? I'll show you what it looks like in the eagle owl nest when pigeons and crows are on the menu of the eagle owls. At the age of about 14 days, the little eagle owls get the pigeons or crows unplucked into the nest and they start to pluck them themselves. The fact that the feathers are lying around in the nest area has nothing to do with territory marking. The fact that the young eagle owls drop over the edge of the nest has nothing to do with marking the area.

Habitat: Eagle owls at the nest with droppings and feathers

What happens in the eagle owl territory when other birds become aware of the feathers? The birds (ravens, crows, buzzards, hawks, etc.) now start attacking the Junguhus every day. And what does the eagle owl do? The eagle owl cleans the nest of the young and even moves its plucking place to another place.

Habitat: cleaned nest

Does the something described above have anything to do with marking the area? I say no. When the young eagle owls have left the nest, they meet every evening in the same place in the area to eat, and there is also excrement there. Only now does it no longer matter whether there are feathers and feces lying around. The eagle owl roost is now somewhere else and so there is no longer any danger for the young eagle owls. One could remove the feathers and traces of excrement during the day and new ones would be there the next evening. The eagle owls, for example, steer crows, ravens and buzzards to another place in the area in order to distract them from their sleeping place. During the day I was often able to observe how other birds of prey search the feeding area (Luderplatz) for prey residues. Eagle owls are very sensitive in their territory. As soon as they are disturbed, e.g. at their breeding site or roost, they leave this area. In winter you can watch eagle owls well at composting facilities, because here they will always find rats. Reporting on eagle owls is easier than observing them. You can tell a lot about the eagle owl and hardly anyone can control it. For this reason, I took numerous photos and small films to document my observations. Finally, I'll show you three more pictures, the first one shows three Junguhus in their place every evening in a gravel pit. On the second picture you can see an owl eating place (Luderplatz) and the throat patch of the eagle owl shines nicely bright. On the third picture you can see two buzzards in the same place looking for prey remains.

Habitat: Eagle owls at Luderplatz

I didn't want to withhold from you what it looks like when the eagle owls strangle their vaults. And they always look very interested in where it ends up. Plus a few unique pictures.

Way of life: eagle owl chokes out vaults

I would like to point out once again that my texts and images may not be used anywhere other than on this website without written permission. They are only used for further training.

More information about the eagle owl, e.g. the age, the size, the appearance, the breeding places, the breeding season, the habitat, the way of life, the behavior and a small profile can be found on my page: The eagle owl and under owl observations.

Have fun on my pages, such as peregrine falcons in the city or the short-eared owl.

If you want to find out something about the knowledge of birds, visit my pages: What do birds and intelligent crows know. My site is great for projects in kindergarten, district school, high school, university and school for lectures and essays in biology, in zoology, in specialist classes, for worksheets, for species profiles and for presentations or for an essay in biology classes popular. Here you will find everything for your profile template (elementary school, secondary school, high school) about birds.
There are extra bird pages for the children in preschool and for the children in primary school, e.g. with pictures of chicks or bird portraits. At the bottom of the page you will always find a list of other bird watching.

We have had our most beautiful bird observations in Europe on Iceland, in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark), in Holland, in England, in Poland, in Austria, in Switzerland, in Belgium, in Ireland, in Italy, in Luxembourg, in France, in Portugal, in Spain, in Greece, in Germany in Berlin, in Hamburg on the Elbe, in Bremen, in North Rhine-Westphalia, in Baden-Württemberg, in Saarland, in Rhineland-Palatinate, in Bavaria, in Hesse, Made in Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Lewitz), Thuringia, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony.

Observations, bird pictures and author: Gerhard Brodowski Hamburg

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