This Adorable Owl Family Has Two Mums And a Dad, a First For The Species

  • 7 months   ago
  • 1938

An adorable family of great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) has become an internet sensation after they were discovered nesting on the window of an office building in Reno, Nevada.

"I heard this racket outside my window," recalled Jim Thomas, a hydrologist at the Desert Research Institute.

Looking out onto the window ledge, Thomas saw a pair of great horned owls fighting off some ravens for the prime territory.

Soon enough, the male and female owl couple became famous around the office. But then, something odd happened: another female owl showed up.

The office watched in fascination as the two female owls began to lay eggs along the rocky window ledge. 

While the females were nesting, the male owl would bring back tasty treats from his hunting expeditions, like mice and an old rabbit.

The behavior from these owls isn't just unusual for an office environment, it's also completely unheard of in nature - mainly because great horned owls are monogamous.

Christian Artuso, an ornithologist with Bird Studies Canada, told National Geographic that this is the first time polygyny - which is when one male mates with more than one female - has ever been observed in the species.

The behaviour is even more confusing when considering that most great horned owls are solitary creatures. 

The species, which is quite territorial, doesn't usually flock together and they certainly don't nest near each other.

Still, the behaviour isn't completely out of the question for other owl species. For instance, scientists have noted instances of polygyny in barn owls and Eurasian eagle owls.

But overall, the behaviour is still very rare among raptors. Because unless there is bountiful food, Artuso explained, a male will generally not be able to provide two females with enough sustenance.

David Catalano, an ornithologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, agreed. 

"Very, very odd," he told National Geographic.

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Source: sciencealert

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