Keeping it ‘owl’ in the family
Thursday 12 June 2008
He might not be getting a card for Father’s Day but ZSL London Zoo bird keeper Darren Jordan has become a surrogate dad to three young owlets.
The first-time father, who’s worked at the Zoo for eight years, rescued the burrowing owl chicks from their underground nest box last month after heavy rains threatened to flood it.
Burrowing owls are the only breed of the birds that live under the earth; they dig tunnels and chambers to lay their eggs because they live in the grasslands and deserts of the Americas, where there aren't any trees.
The chicks, which are now being kept in Zoo’s incubation unit, are the first to be born at the Zoo since 1997, and are ironically named, Huey, Dewy and Lewy. But these three young owls are nothing like the Disney ducks and definitely can’t swim - which is why they needed to move home.
The birds, native to North and South America, are also unusual because, unlike most owls, they’re active during the day rather than the night. They have bright yellow eyes, a flattened facial disk and their legs are incompletely feathered and greyish in colour.
Play this video Huey, Dewey and Lewy are as yet unsexed because their feathers need to be sent off to be DNA tested when the birds are fully grown - but they are already developing their own personalities, so much so that daddy Darren is able to tell them apart despite the birds only being three inches tall.
The new father feeds the three young owlets on cut meat three times a day, weighing them and making sure their temperatures are kept between 27 and 29 degrees. They will remain in ZSL London Zoo’s Incubation Unit being cared for by keepers for another month before going back to their real dad.
Darren, who’s become quite the doting father, says: ‘The chicks are doing really well; they’ve been here for nearly three weeks now.
‘With all the rain we were worried about flooding so we brought them into the incubator section where you could say I’ve taken them under my wing and they seem to be thriving - so I’m a very proud father this year.’