Baby Owls: All You Need To Know

baby owls

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see the fluffy outline of a baby owl silhouette in its nest or even exploring the world around its nest, you’ll surely want to know more about these amazing creatures. Sometimes finding a baby owl can be quite a worrying experience. So in this article, I’m going to tell you what you need to know about baby owls, and what to do if you find one. 

Read on to learn some interesting true facts about owls like:

  • Where baby owls live
  • What baby owls look like
  • What to do if you find a baby owl on the ground

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Baby Owls: All You Need To Know

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Baby Owls In The Nest

baby owl

Most owls are pretty lazy parents when it comes to nest building. They prefer to use a nest built by another bird or a natural cavity that doesn’t need much effort to fix up. These birds tend to lay pretty big clutches of eggs. The Barn Owl, for example, lays 5-7 eggs and the 

Snowy Owl can lay as many as a full dozen. 

The mother owl usually sits on the eggs for about a month until they are ready to hatch. Once the eggs have hatched, the nestling period lasts nearly 6 weeks in a large species like the Great Horned Owl, to a month or less in the much smaller Eastern Screech Owl

Many owl species breed in the winter months, although each species is different. Snowy Owl babies, for example, are raised in summer and fall. That’s why you could see fluffy baby owls at just about any time of the year.  

How Do Baby Owls Sleep?

Seeing baby owls sleeping can come as quite a surprise. These fluffy little birds lie down on their bellies with their heads turned to the side, while gripping the branch tightly for safety. Baby owls sleep in this way because they have pretty big heads for birds and the babies don’t have the strength to support the weight all day. 

What Do Baby Owls Look Like?

young owls

Baby owls hatch as tiny birds with very few if any feathers. They are pink and helpless little creatures that are not even able to open their eyes. Over the weeks they spend in the nest, these helpless chicks turn into fluffy baby owls, growing soft, downy feathers that keep them warm, but cannot be used for flight.

Before the owlets have developed all their adult feathers, you can get a better idea of the general owl anatomy. You’ll notice that owls don’t really have flat faces and very short legs, it’s just the impression that their thick plumage creates. 

What To Do If You Find A Baby Owl On The Ground

On more than one occasion, I’ve found baby owls standing on the ground, and this is usually no real cause for concern.

If you happen to find an owlet outside of its nest, step back and take stock of the situation before you try to pick up the bird. If mom and dad are nearby, you just might find yourself being flown at quite aggressively at this point. As with any baby bird you find, it is a mistake to assume that the young owl you’ve just found needs your help. But how do you know?

It is normal for baby owlets to leave the nest before they are completely ready to fly. These birds are still very mobile and will not be easy to pick up unless cornered somehow. You should not interfere with an older owlet unless it is in real danger of being injured by a pet or hit by a car for example. Its parents are probably somewhere nearby, keeping watch over the situation. 

When To Get Involved

what is a baby owl called

If you find a baby owl outside of its nest and it is nowhere near ready to start flying, and you are able and brave enough to safely return it to its nest, that would be your best bet. Of course, falling off a ladder or getting clawed by an owl is not anyone’s idea of a good time, so don’t rush into anything.

If the baby owl is quite well developed, but in real danger of being hurt, you can consider moving it to a safer area, like a tree branch. Just be sure not to move it too far away from the immediate area where you found it because its parents are still feeding it. 

If you find an obviously injured baby owl, or a very young baby owl and can’t get it back to its nest, you can catch the animal and keep it safe until you can get help from a qualified, registered wildlife rehabilitator. 

Be sure to wear gloves or use a towel when handling the poor thing. Even baby owls have sharp claws and bills. Catch it by placing your hands over its back and lifting it gently but firmly. Put it in a cardboard box with a folded towel inside and be sure to poke a few holes in the box for air.  Keep the owlet in a warm, dark, and quiet place until you can get it to help. 

Do Owls Abandon Their Babies?

baby owl called

Luckily, it is not true that bird parents will reject their babies after they have been picked up by people. Mom and dad owls will be very happy to have their babies returned to them, although they might not show it at first if you get anywhere near their nest. 

Handling baby owls or disturbing these birds in any way when they are nesting is a terrible idea.  The best thing to do if you find a family of owls is to watch them from a distance with a good pair of binoculars so that you don’t disturb them. You can learn a lot about these birds and see some great owl behavior this way. 

What To Feed A Baby Owl

In nature, the type of food an owlet will be fed by its parents will depend on the species of owl and the kind of animals they usually catch. Most baby owls can be fed dead mice or day-old chicken chicks, but this job should really be left to their parents or qualified rehabilitators if possible. 

The reason that this is so important is that if you begin to feed a baby owl, it will imprint on you. If this happens, the bird might never be able to be returned to the wild and need care for the rest of its life. 

To avoid baby owls imprinting on people, qualified and experienced wildlife rehabilitators often work hard to keep themselves hidden from the baby owlets while feeding them. They will even disguise their hands in a puppet while feeding the chicks. Of course, it’s important that they do this because the best place for owls to be is out in the wide world with the freedom they deserve. 


Do baby owls really sleep face down?

It is not exactly true to say that baby owls sleep face down. Baby owls do sleep lying down on their bellies but they often turn their heads to the side, rather than lying completely face down.

What do you do if you find a baby owl on the ground?

It’s not unusual to find older baby owls on the ground, and if you do, it’s usually best not to interfere. Read through this article for more information about when to help out or call a registered wildlife rehabilitator for more advice. 

What is a baby owl called?

Baby owls can be called owlets, although there are also some small species of owls that are called owlets even as adults. Baby owls can also be called chicks. 

What does a baby owl sound like?

Baby owls can be pretty noisy creatures, especially when they are hungry. They can make all sorts of noises like screeches, hisses, and even peeping sounds.  

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t yet seen a wild baby owl, I hope you get the chance to enjoy this exciting wildlife experience soon. It’s only natural to want to care for baby birds when we find them out there, but this isn’t always a good idea. Now that you know more about these fluffy little creatures, you will know exactly what to do if you ever find an owlet outside of its nest. Happy owl watching!

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