The Smithsonian's National Zoo welcomed two burrowing owl chicks May 24. When they hatch, the chicks are helpless and their eyes are closed. By age 2 1/2 weeks, the chicks are able to control their body temperature and begin to emerge from their burrows to beg for food. At 3 weeks old, they begin jumping and flapping their wings, and at 4 weeks, they are able to take short flights. Visitors can easily identify the chicks by their juvenile plumage, which lacks any of the white bars and spots of the adults. Burrowing owls are one of the smallest owl species in North America. The average adult is 10 inches in length—slightly larger than an American robin.
Also making their summer debut at the Zoo's Bird House are two kori bustard chicks that hatched June 9 and 10. Keepers are hand-raising the chicks, which increases the likelihood that the chicks will breed successfully once they reach sexual maturity. Hand-rearing has another benefit; several wild birds of prey reside on Zoo grounds, and raising the chicks inside the Bird House eliminates the chance of conflict. The Zoo's Nutrition department developed a specialized diet that contains pellets, crickets, peas, greens and fruit, and keepers feed the chicks every two hours between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Although the chicks will not be on exhibit until late August, Zoo visitors can see their parents at the kori bustard exhibit, located outside of the Bird House.