Newquay Zoo’s Ural owls have bred for the first time – thanks to a makeover of their love nest. At the end of April, two wide-eyed chicks hatched to the unnamed pair, a 12-year-old male and 16-year-old female, who have been together at the Cornish zoo since 2007.

The pair are thought to have bred successfully as a result of an enclosure redesign. Bird Keeper Emma Turnbull commented: “The enclosure was completely re-vamped, we replaced the poles and the netting and cleared some of the greenery to give the owls more space and height. Enclosure design should mimic the animal’s wild habitat as much as possible. This is something we continuously aim to provide to stimulate natural behaviours of the species in our care.

‘‘We actually took the nest box out, and as there was ample substrate on the ground, that’s where she nested! They hadn’t shown any signs of breeding activity before, so this is a great result.Taking the birds out of the enclosure, changing it around and then putting them back in a slightly different environment gave them a new interest and kick-started their breeding.

’’Ural owls are medium sized nocturnal predators found across Europe and northern Asia. They are amongst the largest members of the wood owl family, with a wingspan of between 45 and 50 inches – that’s a very impressive 4 feet.

The first chick hatched on 19th April and the second on 21st. Ural owls lay between 3 to 5 eggs which hatch a few days apart. John Meek, Curator of Animals, is delighted with the success: “Both chicks are doing really well and are growing up very quickly. This is another breeding success to add to the fantastic year we have had so far!” You can spot the chicks and their parents near the African Savannah exhibit.

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