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Friday, May 25, 2012

The baby bird who's having a real hoot: Tiny owl who can't stop laughing

By Daily Mail Reporter

Something certainly seems to have tickled this baby bird.

Amateur photographer Conrad Tan caught the tiny Saw-whet owl having a real hoot while he was snapping a family of owls in the hills of a small town called Moraga, 30 miles east of San Francisco.

The 42-year-old, an electrical engineer from San Jose, California, heard reports that two baby owls had been sighted in a nesting box in the town so headed out with his camera to see if he could catch the perfect shot.

Mr Tan waited for hours for the birds to finally come out of their hiding place and eventually they began to hop around on the branches when, all of a sudden, one of them appeared to crease up with laughter.

Very amused: This baby Saw-whet owl appears to be laughing for the camera near Moraga, San Francisco

He said: 'I'd like to imagine he was thinking of a funny joke another owl had told

'I had tried twice to get this photograph. The first time I found them the owls were still in the box but the second time I visited they had fledged and were hopping about from branch to branch.

'The second time I went, I hoped they would be on a branch that was open and in good light and I was not disappointed.

'One baby was very high in the trees and did not give me a very good photo but the second one did everything a wildlife photographer could ask for; he posed, flapped around a bit, gave me several good looks, all in great light and uncluttered backgrounds.'

Shots such as these are rare as the owls, which are nocturnal, are notoriously hard to spot.

Mr Tan, who first got into photography to make his own desktop backgrounds of landscapes and later fell into wildlife photography, described his excitement at capturing the creatures for the first time in the wild.

He said: 'I had tried to take some photos of a couple of Saw-whet owls two years ago but they didn't come out.

Bird of prey: Amateur photographer Conrad Tan had travelled to the spot specially to photograph the owls

'When I first saw them in the box, I was so overjoyed I could barely contain myself. I could feel my heart racing.

'The birds don't come out in the wide open often, preferring heavy branches and leaves to hide especially as they get older. When they are young their fear of humans isn't quite developed yet.

'They seemed to be calling for the parents to come feed them and being little raptors they need a steady supply of mice.

'I've seen many photos of saw-whet owls up in the trees, or being handled by rehabilitation personnel. Only very few are out in the open and it's even less common to catch them being as animated as this little fellow.'

Saw-whet owls are strictly nocturnal with activity beginning at late dusk. During the day, they depend on their plumage for camouflage when roosting in foliage, usually close to the ground.

When threatened, a saw-whet owl will elongate its body in order to appear like a tree branch or bump, often bringing one wing around to the front of the body.

The Saw-whet owl makes a repeated tooting whistle sound. Some say they sound like a saw being sharpened on a whetstone, hence their unusual namesake.

Peek-a-boo! The tiny bird nervously peeps out of his birdbox home in the hills

Rarely seen in the day: The birds are usually nocturnal so it was a rare treat to see them in the light



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