Tawny owls make excellent parents. So caring in fact, I've found they will even take on foster-chicks. Last year I put this nurturing instinct to the test by giving a pair six extra owlets to raise.
They barely batted an eye - despite the fact that they now had 10 chicks! I helped them along by putting extra food on my garden bird table every night.
The adult pair took on the role of feeding all these extra mouths and raised them until late August. I took advantage of their presence and got some great photographs of these owlets as they grew up right outside my living room window. These pictures went on to inform my paintings.
This year I repeated the process after an owlet was handed to me. The video below shows me adding this chick to the nest whilst the tawny adult was away. I'm wearing a helmet because tawny owls can be very dangerous and are very protective if they discover you near their nest.
I’m often asked to find a foster family for tawny owl chicks, because these owlets are so adventurous they leave the nest too early and then get into trouble.
People find them on the ground where they are vulnerable to predators and then hand them into their local vets or wildlife rehabilitation centres.
It is far better to try to restore them to their own nest. If that is not possible, then the next best thing is to pop them into the nest of a wild pair so that the chicks are raised in a more natural environment.
I've tried this with barn owls too - and been successful - but it isn't so often I'm handed barn owl chicks to raise.