Owls make excellent parents. So caring, in fact, a wildlife artist on the Yorkshire Wolds has discovered they will take on foster-chicks.
Robert Fuller, of Thixendale, appeared on The One Show on BBC One recently to talk about how he has successfully taken advantage of the nurturing instincts of owls to rehome foundling chicks.
The artist, who is a patron of the World Owl Trust, is a keen conservationist. He was shown persuading a first time barn owl mum, whose own chicks had not yet hatched from their eggs, to adopt two foundling owlets.
He said: “I put the chicks into her nest whilst she was out and then watched what happened. When she first saw the two quite big chicks in her nest I wasn’t sure whether she was going to brood them or eat them.
“But she soon took to the job and became fiercely protective of them. It was amusing watching her try to work out how to get her sharp talons out of the way so that she could sit on such large chicks.”
Barn owls lay their eggs in succession so it is normal for there to be a significant difference in size between the first chick to hatch and the last.
This, however, can present a very nasty problem. If there isn’t enough food the largest is big enough to swallow the youngest one whole.
Mr Fuller, whose work to help barn owls developed out of a deep commitment to wildlife surrounding him on the Yorkshire Wolds, avoided this problem by adding to the food that the parent birds brought for the chicks.
“I made sure there was plenty of food for all of them until they fledged,” he said.
Mr Fuller recorded the story of the owl foster family via a camera hidden in the nest box and his footage was shown on The One Show.