April 8, 2003
CONTACT: Becky Zelinski, 661/664-2138, bzelinski@csub.edu
or Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456, mstepanovich@csub.edu


California State University, Bakersfield biology students are getting a rare educational opportunity. Since mid-February, theyíve been witnessing first-hand the nesting behavior of a wild Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus).

For the third straight year, almost to the day, a female Great Horned Owl has returned to the same location outside the window of a CSUB geology lab to lay and hatch her eggs. This year, she returned in mid-February and laid five eggs. The chicks began hatching on March 21 with the youngest one hatching about one week ago. Three of the chicks have survived and are now about the size of a grapefruit.

According to Marlene Benton, coordinator for the CSUB Facility for Animal Care and Treatment, this behavior is typical of the species, but itís a unique opportunity for students.

ìGreat Horned Owls tend to nest in the same area because theyíre lazy about nesting,î Benton said. ìIf she already had a nest made, sheís going to go back to it.î

ìFor the Cal State biology students, itís a great opportunity for them to observe a wild Great Horned Owl in an urban setting. Their nests are hard to find in the wild so itís hard to observe the behaviors our students are able to see in the window.î

In order to allow the owl and her offspring to reside in peace, a video camera has been installed above the nesting site and the live images are projected into a nearby classroom. Some professors have been taking their students into the class to observe the owls on the screen.

For Benton and many others at CSUB, this real-life educational experience is a real treat.

ìThe little ones are a lot of fun to watch. They scratch and stretch and make funny noises and theyíre just so awkward," she said. "Weíre excited about it because sheís nested in the same nest three years in a row, about the same time every year and outside our science building."

Benton said the chicks will live in the birth nest for about five weeks. Theyíll then begin roosting somewhere near the birth nest and the mother will continue to feed them for about three more months.