Nothing says “I love you” like bringing your partner a snake for dinner.
This romantic exchange between a pair of barred owls was caught on remote camera in a pignut hickory tree in New York.
“The male barred owl greets his mate with a big meal at the perch near the nest entrance,” Cornell Lab Bird Cams posted on Facebook. “This is the first snake delivered to the nest box this season, and it serves as another testament to the wide variety of prey items that barred owls eat.”
This particular nesting box is sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited retail stores and was set up in 1998 by the company’s founder, president and CEO Jim Carpenter in his backyard. The box was first occupied in 2003 and has hosted barred owl nests almost every year since. The nest camera is part by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Cam network. The research group from Cornell University aims to “interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.”
“Male barred owls are tasked with delivering all the food to their mates throughout the incubation period (28-33 days) while the female cares for the eggs,” Ben Walters, Bird Cams communication specialist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, told Newsweek. “After the eggs hatch, the male will continue to provide all the food for the female and owlets until about two weeks into the nestling period. At this point, the chicks have grown large enough to spend some time in the nest alone, and the female can resume hunting.”
Barred owls are opportunistic predators, which means their prey can be highly varied. “They hunt and eat just about anything that they can get their talons on,” Walters said. “Their diet includes small animals, including squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, rabbits, birds (up to the size of grouse), amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates.
“The snake in this video looks to be a good-sized garter snake. Barred owls will eat smaller prey whole, including some snakes. Larger prey are torn into pieces and swallowed.”
Barred owls are thought to mate for life, raising one brood each year. The hatchlings grow rapidly, gaining an average of half an ounce a day through their first month. “Owlets will leave the nest when they reach 4– to 5 weeks old,” Walters said. “At this stage, they weigh about 50 to 75 percent as much as an adult, and they still aren’t good at flying!
“Instead of flying, they will drop to the ground, scale trees, and hop from branch to branch. Young owls start flying short distances at about 10 weeks old. Adults continue to care for their young for several months until they are ready to disperse in search of their own territory.”
The video of the parent owls devouring their snaky snack has been viewed over 63,000 times on Facebook and has received thousands of likes and dozens of comments.
“Love owls, hate snakes. Guess that’s how the world goes around,” said on user.
“Must be yummy,” said another.
The nest cam can be livestreamed from the lab’s website, with updates posted to its Twitter feed daily.