How Long Do Baby Owls Stay With Their Parents

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The more I research owls, the more I see that they are just like our common songbirds in many ways, including breeding behavior. Although known as monogamous pairs, parent owls leave their young as soon as they learn to fly. But, how long do baby owls stay with their parents

It actually depends on the owl species. But on average, baby owls stay for about six weeks. It might take longer for some owl species like the Great Horned Owls, or it may take shorter for others, like the Screech Owls. As long as the young are ready to fly, they can leave. 

In this article, we’re going to explore more about this topic. I’m going to talk about: 

  • The different length baby owls stay with their parents by owl species
  • Owl nesting behavior for each owl species
  • Young behavior after hatching for each owl species

If these are things you’re interested to know, let’s dive into the article… 

How Long Do Baby Owls Stay With Their Parents

As mentioned above, the length of baby owls’ stay with their parents varies from one owl species to another. And that’s why we’re going to go over the 19 different owl species in North America…

Owl SpeciesLength of Stay
Flammulated Owl25 days
Burrowing Owl6 weeks
Boreal Owl4-6 weeks
Spotted Owl5 weeks
Snowy Owl10 weeks
Barn Owl35-40 days
Barred Owl8-10 weeks
Eastern-Screech Owl8-10 weeks
Northern Pygmy-Owl27-28 days
Great Horned Owl9-10 weeks
Great Gray Owl4-6 weeks
Western Screech-Owl5-6 weeks
Short-eared owl2-4 weeks
Northern Hawk Owl4 weeks
Long-eared Owl8 weeks
Northern Saw-whet Owl4-5 weeks
Elf Owl27-28 days
Mountain Pygmy Owl30 days
Whiskered Screech-Owl24-30 days

Flammulated Owl

25 Days

Baby Flammulated Owls are found to stay with their parents for only 25 days. That is a lot shorter than the six weeks time frame. 

These birds breed in some areas in the western United States, usually in dry, mature mountain forests. They also prefer middle and upper elevations to the lower ones or valleys. And like many owl species, they look for readily available nesting cavities. 

Flammulated Owls no longer put anything on the nesting cavity, and around mid-April through July, the female Flammulated Owl lays about 1-3 eggs. She will then incubate the eggs for 21-24 days until they hatch. 

Once the eggs hatch, the parents will start caring for them. Male Flammulated Owls are the ones who leave the nest to search for food that they’ll feed to their mate and owlets. Brooding usually takes 12 days before the females also start leaving the nest to search for more food. 

The pair will continue taking care of their young together for 12 more days. By day 25, the young Flammulated Owls are ready to leave the nest. Some leave the nest immediately, while others stay in the nest for a few more days. 

Once they leave, the young just usually stay around the area and perch in nearby trees. 

There are also cases when the brood splits up after fledging. When this happens, each parent takes care of around 1-2 young birds for another four weeks. 

Burrowing Owl

6 weeks / 44-53 days

Baby Burrowing Owls stay with their parents for six weeks. So, it’s a lot longer than the Baby Flammulated Owls. 

These birds breed in the western parts of the United States and southern areas in Canada. The birds prefer living in open, treeless areas like deserts, grasslands, pastures, fields, golf courses, cemeteries, and vacant lots in the cities. 

As their name implies, Burrowing owls use burrows on the ground dug by other animals as their nesting area. The parent birds will then line their burrow with softer materials like feathers and grass. 

Burrowing Owls breed early. The breeding season usually starts from early February to May. The female birds will lay around 2-12 eggs each season, and incubation takes about 28-30 days. 

After the egg hatches, the female Flammulated Owl broods the new hatchlings while the male searches for food. When the young birds reach two weeks old, they start to come out of the burrow to explore the outside, but around this time, they can’t fly yet. 

The birds learn to take short flights at four weeks, but they never go far from their nests. By the time they reach six weeks, the young birds fly out of their nests but stay within their parents’ territory. 

It usually only takes a year for these birds to be sexually mature. 

Boreal Owl

4-6 weeks

Baby Boreal Owls stay with their parents for 4-6 weeks. So it’s almost the same as the baby burrowing Owls. 

These birds are non-migratory and are found across Canada and some areas in Alaska and the western United States. The birds breed in old, mixed-coniferous forests, occupying old woodpecker nests or natural cavities. Some Boreal owls are also found nesting in artificial nest boxes. 

The breeding season for Boreal Owls usually starts around March to June. Female Boreal Owls will lay around 4-5 eggs on average, but European Boreal Owls can lay more, sometimes reaching 12 eggs in one brood. 

Females will incubate the eggs for 26-32 days while the males feed them. After the eggs hatch, females will start brooding while the males hunt for food for their families. Females also help hunt, but only after brooding, which usually takes around three weeks. 

On days 28 to 36, after hatching, the young Boreal Owls are now ready to leave their nests. But there are cases when they stay, and their parents feed them for two more weeks. 

Spotted Owl

5 weeks

Baby Spotted Owls stay with their parents for five weeks, shorter than the average timeframe. 

Spotted owls have three subspecies, Northern Spotted Owl, Californian Spotted Owl, and Mexican Spotted Owl. Depending on the subspecies, the owls live in various habitats and different regions or areas. 

Generally, Spotted Owls nest inside a large hollow tree and in areas surrounded by many trees to provide shelter. They sometimes occupy nests left by large birds like hawks or ravens. If the birds can’t find an available nest, the females just choose to lay eggs on plain ground. 

Female Spotted Owls lay around 2-3 eggs every breeding season. They then incubate the eggs for 28-32 days while the males hunt for food. After the eggs hatch, the female stays in the nest to care for their young while the males continue to hunt. It takes around two weeks before the female birds also go out of the nest to hunt. 

At five weeks, young Spotted Owls are now ready to leave the nest. But some parent Spotted Owls care and feed their young for an extended period. 

Snowy Owl

2-3 weeks

Baby Snowy Owls stay with their parents for 2-3 weeks, a lot shorter than the average 6 weeks. 

Photo by Ahmad Ayoub from Pexels

These birds breed in the coastal areas of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. They mainly like open spaces without any trees around. Females build nests by digging a shallow area on the ground and shape it by pressing their bodies to it. It usually takes days for the nest site to finish, but these owl species usually reuse the nest site for many years. 

The breeding season for Snowy Owls starts around May to September. Females will lay around 3-11 eggs and incubate them for 32 days. Once the eggs hatch, brooding starts. The male birds will hunt for food, and the females will break it down, so it’s easier for the young owlets to eat. 

Around 2-3 weeks after hatching, young Snowy Owls start leaving the nest even before they learn to fly. However, parents tend to feed them for 5-7 weeks more until the young birds are ready to hunt. 

Barn Owl

10 weeks

Baby Barn Owls stay with their parents for ten weeks, which is longer than most owl species. 

Photo by Keith Lazarus on Unsplash

The birds are non-migratory and are found year-round across the United States and Mexico. They live in open habitats like deserts, fields, grasslands, woodlots, marshes, brushy areas, suburbs, and cities. 

Barn Owls breed any time of the year, usually depending on the amount of food in the area. The birds typically nest in tree cavities, cliff crevices, burrows near river banks, and other holes found in man-made structures. The female bird then makes a nest made of shredded pellets shaped into a cup. 

The female Barn Owl lays around 2 to 10 eggs (sometimes more) every breeding season. Intubation takes about 29-34 days, and once they hatch, the male bird will hunt for food while the female cares for the young. 

After three weeks, the female bird also starts leaving the nest to help the male hunt. The young birds are slowly becoming more active, and by the fifth week, they can now run or jump. 

Flying exercises start around week 7 to 10. By the 8th to 9th week, the young barn owls can now make short flights. At week 10, the young birds start leaving their nests. 

Barred Owl

35-40 days

Baby Barred Owls stay with their parents for 35-40 days, which is also about six weeks. 

These birds are found all year round in southwestern parts of Canada and the eastern parts of the United States. They love staying in mixed forests, typically in large trees that are near a water source. 

Barred Owls nest in natural tree cavities or old nests of hawks, crows, or squirrels. They also sometimes utilize artificial nest boxes. The birds will just then line these cavities with soft materials like lichen, feathers, or conifer sprigs. 

The female bird lays around 1-5 eggs and incubates those for 28-33 days. Once the eggs hatch, the female will care for them while the male bird hunts for food to feed them. 

At four weeks, young Barred Owls start crawling out of the nest, but they don’t know how to fly yet. They’ll wait for two more weeks (week 6) before they learn to fly. However, it’s found that the parent Barred Owls continue to take care of them for at least four months, longer than the rest of the owl species on this list.  

Eastern Screech-Owl

8-10 weeks

Baby Eastern Screech-Owls stay with their parents for 8-10 weeks, almost the same as the Barn Owls. 

These birds are found all year-round in the eastern part of the United States. They are found in a variety of habitats as long as there are enough trees as cover. They then build their nest in tree holes and cavities they see, whether natural or artificial. 

Like the Flammulated Owls, Eastern-Screech-Owls don’t build nests. Instead, they rely on the debris found at the bottom of the cavities. Females then lay around 2-6 eggs, and incubation takes about 27-34 days. 

Unlike most birds where egg-laying only has 1-2 days of interval, Eastern Screech-Owls have days to weeks of interval between eggs, creating a very significant difference in size between the young birds. 

As a result, larger young Eastern-Screech Owls sometimes end up killing the younger or newly hatched birds. 

Young birds are ready to leave the nest in four weeks, while on average, it might take 8-10 weeks. 

Northern Pygmy-Owl

27-28 days

Baby Northern Pygmy-Owls stay with their parents for 27-28 days, about four weeks. 

Northern Pygmy-Owls are non-migratory and found all year round in the southwestern part of Canada, the western part of the United States, and some areas in Mexico. They are usually found in forests at varying elevations. 

Like most owls, these birds also nest in tree cavities or holes. These can be natural cavities, old bird nests, or artificial nest boxes. These birds also depend on the debris found on tree cavities like wood chips, leaves, old nests, and other soft materials that would help support their egg. 

The female bird lays around 2-7 eggs each year and incubates them for 28 days. Once the egg hatches, both parents care for their young, taking turns in hunting food. 

It only takes 27 to 28 days, about four weeks, before the birds learn to fly and leave their nests. 

Great Horned Owl

9-10 weeks

Baby Great Horned Owls stay with their parents for 9-10 weeks before leaving their nests. 

These birds are native throughout all of North America. Their population ranges from Alaska going down to Mexico. As these are non-migratory birds, you’ll be seeing them all year round, usually in woodlands, orchards, swamps, and agricultural fields. 

These birds nest in large trees during the breeding season, cliff ledge, caves, broken-off tree stumps, or even the ground. They typically just search for old nests of hawks, eagles, crows, and other large birds. They also don’t add any nesting material aside from feathers, but this is very rare. 

Female Great Horned Owls lay around 1-4 eggs, sometimes more if the food source is abundant. The incubation period lasts for 30-37 days. 

Once the eggs hatch, both parents participate in caring for the owlets. At five weeks, the young Great Horned Owls are now capable of leaving the nest and climbing nearby branches. But it takes around 9-10 weeks before the birds learn to fly and leave the nest. But if food is scarce, it might take longer. 

There are many instances when baby Great Horned Owls don’t leave their parents until the next breeding season. Normally, they just stay within the territory. 

As birds with long lifespans, Great Horned Owls don’t mature until they’re two years old. 

Great Gray Owl

4-6 weeks

Baby Great Gray Owls stay with their parents for 4-6 weeks, which is just within the average timeframe. 

These birds are nonmigratory and are found all year round in Alaska, across Canada, northern Minnesota, and northern Wisconsin. They usually inhabit coniferous forests, mainly pine and fir forests. 

Great Gray Owls breed late in winter, which is quite different from most birds. These owls usually choose a nest site near a forest opening, so it’s easier to search for food. Like many owls, they also don’t build their nests; they use old nests of other animals like ravens and squirrels instead. 

If they can’t find old nests, they usually just lay their eggs on artificial nest boxes, broken tops of dead trees, and clumps of mistletoe. 

Female Great Gray Owls lay around 2-5 eggs and incubate them for 28-36 days. Once the eggs hatch, both male and female birds help each other to provide for their owlets. 

At 4-6 weeks, the young owls start to leave their nest as they learn to fly. Most Great Gray Owls join the next breeding season as they reach one year. However, in most cases, it would take 2-3 years before they are sexually mature. 

Western Screech-Owl

5-6 weeks

Baby Western Screech-Owls stay with their parents for 5-6 weeks, a lot shorter than Eastern Screech-Owls. 

These birds are seen all year round in the western part of the US and some parts of Mexico. They often inhabit forest areas with large deciduous trees, including aspen, cottonwood, oak, maple, and cottonwood. You can also find them in parks, deserts, suburbs, and coastal areas.

Western Screech-Owls also nest in tree cavities, whether it’s natural or made by woodpeckers. They also sometimes nest in cavities of cliffs and banks. There are also cases where they nest in human-made nest boxes. 

These birds no longer build a nest once they find a suitable cavity. Instead, they just rely on whatever is already inside the cavity. Around March and April, the female Western Screech-Owls lay around 2-7 eggs and incubate them for 26-34 days. 

After the eggs hatch, the female birds are also the ones who brood and feed the owlets while the male birds hunt. At around 5-6 weeks, the baby Western Screech-Owls are now ready to fly out. But some birds tend to stay for another 5-6 weeks. 

Short-eared Owl

2-4 weeks

Baby Short-eared Owls stay with their parents for 24-36 days, probably the owl species that stay with their parents for the shortest time. 

These birds breed across Alaska and Canada, preferring large open areas with low vegetation. 

They nest on the ground, generally surrounded by grasses and low plants as cover. And unlike most owls, they construct their nests. Females normally just scrape off the ground to create a depression and line that with soft materials. 

The female birds normally lay around 4-7 eggs (sometimes reaching 11 eggs) and incubate them for 21-37 days. Once the eggs hatch, the parents help each other to take care of the owlets. 

After just about two weeks, the young birds are now ready to fly off the nest. And after two weeks more, they are already independent of their parents. 

Northern Hawk Owl

4 weeks

Baby Northern Hawk owls stay with their parents for four weeks. 

These birds live all year round across Alaska and Canada. They mainly inhabit dense coniferous or mixed forests near open areas. It also prefers habitats near mountains with large open areas and perches. 

These birds choose nest sites in these areas, but usually near bodies of water. They typically look for natural tree cavities or holes made by woodpeckers. And like many owl species, they don’t build nests but rely on debris left at the bottom of the hole instead. 

Around April and May, the female Northern Hawk Owls lay around 5-7 eggs. But there are rare cases where they lay 3-13 eggs. Incubation will then take about 25-30 days, and once the eggs hatch, the females brood the young birds while the males hunt for food. 

At 3-4 weeks, the young birds leave the nest and are ready to fly around 5-6 weeks. However, some birds don’t become independent from their parents until the end of August. 

Long-eared Owl

8 weeks

Baby Long-eared Owls stay with their parents for eight weeks, a lot longer than the Short-eared Owls. 

These birds breed in the southern parts of Canada and some states in the United States. They are usually found in areas with dense vegetation, open grasslands, and coniferous or deciduous woods. 

Long-eared Owls search for old nests abandoned by other birds during the breeding season and use them as nesting sites. These nests are usually located in tree cavities, cliffs, or even on the ground. 

Females lay around 2-10 eggs each breeding season. She then incubates these for 25-30 days until the eggs hatch. Around this time, the male bird hunts for food to feed her. 

Once the eggs hatch, the female birds brood their young for two weeks before they also do some hunting. At 21 days, the young birds start leaving the nest but only through walking as they can’t fly yet. 

It’s only on the 35th day when the birds begin flying. Some parents still care for their owlets even after they leave the nest. So, they continue to take care of them until they’re 10-11 weeks old. 

Northern Saw-whet Owl

4-5 weeks

Baby Northern Saw-whet Owls stay with their parents for 4-5 weeks. They are widespread across Canada and the United States, but you’ll mainly see them breed in southern Canada, western and northeastern US, and some areas in Mexico. 

These birds mainly inhabit mature forests with lots of open areas to forage for food. They always seem to prefer deciduous trees for nesting, but they can also nest in nest boxes and other trees with a nearby water source. 

Like many owls, Northern Saw-whet Owls occupy old nests or natural cavities made by woodpeckers. The female bird lays around 4-7 eggs and incubates them for 26-29 days. The male bird is the one who hunts for the female’s food throughout the incubation period and even after the eggs are hatched. 

Once the eggs are hatched, the mother won’t leave the nest until the youngest bird is around 18 days old. Once the youngest turns 18, she leaves the nest to help their partner hunt for food. 

After 4-5 weeks, the owlets start leaving the nest, but it’s observed that they somehow stick together or never go far from their parent’s territory. 

At 9 to 10 months old, the Northern Saw-whet Owl reaches maturity. 

Elf Owl

27-28 days

Baby Elf Owls stay with their parents for 27-28 days. These birds breed in Mexico, usually in upland deserts, woodlands, forests, and even urbanized areas. 

Similar to most owl species, Elf Owl reuses old nests of woodpeckers. Sometimes, they search for natural cavities or nest boxes. 

The breeding season for these birds usually starts in April to July. The females lay around 1-5 eggs and incubate them for 24 days. The males, on the other hand, search for food to feed the female birds. 

After the eggs hatch, the young Elf Owls are brood for two weeks and are ready to leave the nest by the 27th or 28th day. Sometimes, parents care for their young for a few more days even after they’ve left the nest. 

Mountain Pygmy-Owl

30 days

Baby Mountain Pygmy-Owls stay with their parents for 30 days. These birds are also found in different regions of North America and inhabit open coniferous and mixed forests. 

Common to owls, they simply search for old nest cavities for nesting. Females then lay around 3-7 eggs every breeding season, and incubation takes about 29 days. 

Young Mountain Pygmy-Owls grow fast. After the eggs hatch, they are almost at adult size in just two weeks. By the 4th week, or after 30 days, the owlets start leaving the nest. However, parents add some more care for 20-30 days until they’re sure of their owlets’ independence. 

Whiskered Screech-Owl

24-30 days

Baby Whiskered Screech-Owls stay with their parents for 24-30 days. These birds are present mostly in some regions in Mexico, particularly in woodlands and forests. 

The breeding season for Whiskered Screech-Owls starts around April and May. The female bird lays around 2-4 eggs and incubates them for 26 days. After the eggs hatch, the parents take care of them until they’re ready to leave the nest after a month. 

Final Thoughts on the Length of Baby Owls’ Stay With Their Parents 

As you can see, the length of how long baby owls stay with their parents depends on the bird species. The short-eared owl has the shortest span of stay at 2-4 weeks, while the larger-sized owls like the Great Horned Owl take around ten weeks before they leave their parents. 

There are a lot of factors considered before the baby owls leave. Usually, they need to be able to fly so that they can protect themselves from possible dangers. 

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in writing this article, parents care so much about their young birds, which is not common in most bird species. 

These birds focus on breeding even just a few owlets in one year. And even after the baby owls left, some parents still care about their young birds and continue to feed and protect them until they’re independent enough. 

The young birds also don’t tend to fly far away from their parents’ territory until they’re almost ready for the breeding season. 

Owls are truly remarkable birds. And they have an even more amazing family relationship.