The Breeding Program
The NSOBP has four primary ways to maximize production of spotted owl eggs and chicks. By using a combination of artificial incubation, double-clutching, hand-raising, and parent rearing, the NSOBP increased chick production and between 2012-2020, 12 spotted owls have been born in captivity. Prior to 2012, two chicks were born between 2008 and 2011 by natural parental rearing only.
Spotted owls are monogamous and will mate for life unless their mate dies. Life-long mating requires the owls to form a strong bond that can take many years to fully develop. We are hopeful that new pairs will form each year as they show positive signs of courtship.
Female spotted owls will lay 1-3 eggs once per year in a single clutch, however, it is possible for them to lay a second clutch of eggs in the same breeding season. Most female owls in the NSOBP are "double clutched" which means the eggs from the first clutch are removed to stimulate the female to lay a second clutch. By removing the eggs, we are mimicking a "predation event". In the wild, if the first clutch of eggs is lost to predation or disease and there is abundant food, the female may naturally re-nest and lay more eggs.
Spotted owl chicks are hand-raised by the NSOBP Team for approximately ten days before being returned to the nest. This technique is called "head-starting".
Tour the Handraising Room here.
Spotted owl eggs start arriving in March and each egg is replaced with a "dummy" egg while the actual owl egg is artificially incubated. By artificially incubating the spotted owl eggs, we are able to closely monitor the humidity, temperature, and rotation of each developing egg. Learn more here.
After approximately ten days of 24/7 care, chicks are returned to the nest and parent owls finish raising the chicks. Female spotted owls that are still sitting on dummy eggs will accept a chick regardless of its age or if it is biologically related to them. After the chicks are returned, we are able to monitor the new family remotely using our nest cameras. We are able to monitor when the chick is being fed, interactions between the chick and its parents, as well as detect any developmental abnormalities, all with minimal disturbance to the owls.