Four Burrowing Owl Chicks Debuted at Lake Superior Zoo

Updated: November 16, 2018 07:50 PM

Zookeepers at the Lake Superior Zoo announced Friday, the hatch of a few new feathery friends.

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Three and a half weeks ago, four Burrowing Owl chicks hatched from their shells! Although they were born in Duluth, in about a month, the chicks will take on permanent residency at the Minnesota Zoo in St. Paul. Two of the owls will be trained to be used in bird shows. The other two owls will be trained to be part of the Minnesota Zoo's outreach program and "Zoo Mobile."

"We're starting to get them used to being around people, lots of different sights and sounds," says Zookeeper, Jackie Fallon. "Carrying them in a traveling kennel, sitting on a glove, being used to loud noise and children and all that kind of stuff. This is their, kind of, emersion into their future life."

Fallon says until they head to the cities, her main job is to get them to be people ready. That means taking them on car rides around zoo grounds, taking them for walks, bringing the owls around people, so they're ready for life at the big zoo.

Right now, Fallon and the staff at the Lake Superior Zoo aren't exactly sure the gender of these four owls. That will be determined by a blood test conducted by the Minnesota Zoo. At that point, the chicks will most likely be given names.

Burrowing owl's have become endangered in Minnesota. "We lost the majority of our burrowing owl habitat with farming and agriculture," Fallon says. "So we got rid of the prairies. When we did that, we got rid of prairie dog towns, which is where they primarily live. So they're very common out in the west, such as the Dakotas. But for us here in Minnesota, they are considered an endangered species."

Standing tall at about four and a half inches, and weighing in at only about a quarter of a pound, that's as big as these little guys get. Burrowing owl's feast on primarily bugs and mice, which is why they thrive in prairie lands. Right now, the chicks eat two or three mice a day to fuel their high-energy bodies. They also get a few snacks throughout the day, like mealworms, wax worms, and crickets.

Friday was the first day the owls caught their own food! Lifespan for these birds is about 15 years in captivity, and five to six years in the wild. The fun-sized birds are predacious to snakes and ferrets. One unique defense characteristic is to give off their own "rattlesnake hiss" to warn off predators in the wild. So if you come across a burrow in the wild and you hear what you think is a snake, it most likely is a nest of chicks.

See these little guys with your own eyes at the Lake Superior Zoo, but only for a short time.

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