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Eurasian owlet makes its public debut at Pittsburgh's National Aviary

| Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The 28-day-old Eurasian Eagle Owl at the National Aviary on the North Side Tuesday, April 9, 2013. The baby chick is the first born at the aviary and is a popular species for zoo education.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The 28-day-old Eurasian Eagle Owl at the National Aviary on the North Side Tuesday, April 9, 2013. The baby chick is the first born at the aviary and is a popular species for zoo education.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The 28-day-old Eurasian Eagle Owl at the National Aviary on the North Side Tuesday, April 9, 2013. The baby chick is the first born at the aviary and is a popular species for zoo education.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Cathy Schlott, Manager of Animal Training, introduces the 28-day-old Eurasian Eagle Owl at the National Aviary on the North Side Tuesday, April 9, 2013. The baby chick is the first born at the aviary and is a popular species for zoo education.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Cathy Schlott, Manager of Animal Training, introduces the 28-day-old Eurasian Eagle Owl at the National Aviary on the North Side Tuesday, April 9, 2013. The baby chick is the first born at the aviary and is a popular species for zoo education.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Cathy Schlott, Manager of Animal Training, introduces the 28-day-old Eurasian Eagle Owl at the National Aviary on the North Side Tuesday, April 9, 2013. The baby chick is the first born at the aviary and is a popular species for zoo education.

The National Aviary has welcomed a cute young chick as a new resident: a month-old Eurasian owl, hatched as a result of a species-sustaining breeding program.

As of April 9, the female chick, yet to be named, is 28 days old. She may be a down-covered baby now, but just wait: In another month's time, the chick will be a full-grown owl that weighs 6 to 7 pounds and has a 5-foot wingspan. The baby, originally about 1.7 ounces, doubled in size within just five days after hatching.

Within a few weeks, the chick — offspring of X and Dumbledore, aviary owls that bred in November — will be losing her fuzz in favor of feathers.

“They go from being fluffy-looking to looking like teenagers,” says Dr. Pilar Fish, director of veterinary medicine for the North Side aviary.

Members of the public can see the chick — who hatched from an egg about twice as big as a chicken's egg — during twice-a-day sessions starting April 10 in the FliteZone Theater. The owlet gives the aviary a Eurasian eagle cast of four, including Gandolf, the chick's uncle.

Aviary staff members are hand-raising the chick rather than leaving her with her parents, which, hopefully, will result in a bird that works well in educational programs, but still maintains owl characteristics, says Cathy Schlott, the aviary's manager of animal training.

Although human-raised birds are still wild animals and don't become pet-like, they can participate in the aviary's educational programs with visitors, Fish says. A wild owl will fly away from humans.

Just like human babies, the chick spends most of her days eating and sleeping, Fish and Schlott say. When it first hatched, the chick got five feedings a day; now, it's down to three. The chick stays in an open pen near staff members, who use tweezers to feed the little carnivore cut-up, thawed, supplemented rats and mice.

The owlet doesn't hoot yet, but she does make chirping sounds.

“It is amazing to watch,” says Schlott, who says observing the chick's rapid growth is like seeing a whole new bird every few days.

Kellie B. Gormly, a staff writer for Trib Total Media, can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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