Bird CAMS – May Update

The three owlets look out on the brave new world outside (as seen on cam 2.)

Branching Barred Owls

Last night the oldest owlet left the nest box and set out somewhat accidentally into the wide world. Over the next few days don’t miss the chance to see the last two owlets on our Wild Birds Unlimited Barred Owl cam take their first few steps outside the nestbox, a process called “branching.” Barred Owls are among the earliest owls to leave the nest, and the owlets on our cam are ready to leave, only 33 days after hatching! During that time the adults have showered them with attention and kept them fed with a supply of vertebrate and invertebrate prey that included crayfish, worms, and even migratory birds.

Each year Wild Birds Unlimited picks 3-5 sets of potential names for the owlets and allows the viewing audience to choose. Cast your vote here and you’ll also be entered in a drawing for a new bird feeder! Be sure to catch the owlets branching while watching the action inside and out. Thanks for watching!

The female owl (Dottie) keeps an eye on her growing brood.

Six Owlets at the Texas Barn Owls Nest

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.

Breeding Season Updates

While watching the ever-entertaining hawk nestlings at our Cornell Hawks nest you may have noticed that the main view seems different. Unfortunately, the main camera that could zoom and move around went offline unexpectedly and could not be repaired; thankfully our backup cam continues to bring us audio and video from the nest! Depending on funding, we’ll aim to replace the entire camera setup after the end of the breeding season—till then, enjoy the views from cam 2!

Meanwhile, the California Condor nestling now spends the majority of its day solo in the cliffside cavity. Its parents visit throughout the day for feedings, preening, and bonding, and the chick has begun spending nights alone as well. The adults are often nearby, perching outside the entrance (out of view from the cam) or in nearby trees. Biologists with the US Fish and Wildlife Service have been able to track the male #509 flying repeatedly to a foraging spot nearly 65 miles away and back to provision the chick! If you missed our Q&A with biologists be sure to watch the replay. We hope to offer more opportunities to connect throughout the nesting season.

Finally, we’ve been watching a dramatic and confusing first few weeks at the Hellgate Osprey nest. Multiple Ospreys landed on the nest, different males mating with the resident female Iris, and a total of four eggs laid, Iris has settled into the breeding season with a new mate. He may be a young male, as he appears less experienced at matingand nestbuilding than Iris’ previous mate Stanley (who has not been seen yet this season). There’s still a chance that Stanley may return, but for now it appears that Iris and her new mate are staking their claim to the nest site along the Clark Fork river. Should be an interesting season!

Two male Lance-tailed Manakins prepare for the arrival of a female.

Catch the Dance of the Manakins

This year we’ve been working behind-the-scenes with collaborators from Florida State University to bring you a view of a phenomenon that can be difficult to see: the dance of the Lance-tailed Manakin. Dr. Emily DuVal and her group have been studying a population of manakins in Panama for many years, chipping away at the mysteries behind the interesting social structure of Lance-tailed Manakins.

Thanks to her hard work, we’ve been able to get a “beta” cam system up and running this year as a proof-of-concept that we hope to improve upon for next season. The cam shows a single display perch that is used by a pair of male manakins to court females. The dances themselves are a low-frequency event, with only a handful to a dozen happening within any given day; however, they are complex and beautiful, with the males vocalizing and dancing in a highly coordinated way. The background audio often contains howler monkeys, cicadas, and the vocalizations of other birds, and is a beautiful backdrop to any scene. Watch cam.

With only a couple weeks left in the manakins’ displaying season, we wanted to give you the chance to catch a glimpse of these diminutive dancers despite the relatively low resolution of our test system. So—bear with us through some of the glitches that come from pushing the frontiers to bring you these postcards from the edge of Panama. Thanks for watching!


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