Breeding Season Timeline
Pair bonded owls begin courting each other and investigating nest sites. It is the female's job to jump-start the male into action, so she chases him around at feeding time to remind him that he should be courting her! Eventually the male will catch on and begin attempting to deliver food to the female to show he is a good provider. New pairs that are not bonded yet will do lots of chasing back and forth as their hormones kick in. They know what they should be doing but have to learn to like each other first! Both the male and the female will spend time checking out potential nesting sites - moving the substrate around inside to make it comfy for an egg, and creating a divot in the substrate for the egg by wiggling their bums - called cup-forming.
March is when eggs start being laid. After choosing a nest, the female spends more and more time preparing it for her eggs. At this time a bonded pair of owls will be copulating several times each night, especially after the male brings food to the female to show he's a good provider. Once the female has laid her eggs she will only leave the nest once each night for less than 20 minutes to defecate, so she needs her mate to bring her dinner at the nest.
In April the eggs that were laid in March begin to hatch. Spotted owl eggs take 32 days to incubate and up to 80 hours to hatch. The chicks are hand-raised by staff for 10 days before they are put back on the nest with mom. In order to produce as many eggs as possible we try to get all of our females to "double-clutch" by taking away their first set of eggs - which in the wild could happen due to predation. If they do lay a second set of eggs then April is when they arrive. Pairs will still be prey-delivering and copulating regularly, and will likely switch to a new nest.
In May the chicks that were hand-raised in April are getting big and fluffy! The ones that are ready to fledge the nest and start exploring the world outside of wooden walls. Eggs that were laid in April are now starting to hatch.
By June all the chicks should be fledging the nest and testing their wings in small hops around their enclosures - all under the watchful eyes of mom of course. Eggs are finished being laid and pairs go back to their normal routine - sleeping during the day and hunting, calling and flying around at dusk and dawn.