Although we’ve previously been referring to Ripley as a boy, as it turns out, he is actually a she! We found out only a few days ago.
It’s pretty much impossible to tell the sex of juvenile owls. We have to wait until they are fully grown and then make a guess –unless we use science! In the bird of prey world usually the girls are bigger, but this isn’t the case in Ripley’s owl family Ninox – it’s the boys that are larger. As an adult Barking Owl a boy is usually over 700 grams, whilst a girl will be less. It’s not exact, only a reasonable guess.
The other way we can tell is by their barking call. Just like a dog, they do bark! The boys sound more gruff, whilst the girls slightly more dainty. Sounds bizarre but it’s true. Our last Barking Owl Frodo didn’t start barking until she was two though which is a long time to wait.
So how do we do it scientifically? We use DNA tests to sex our owls. A feather was used and from this we got all the vital information, a great surprise and solid confirmation Ripley is definitely a girl.
Zoo keeper mum Erin is glowing. We were hoping for a boy as in the past we’ve found them to be more confident in the Bird Show, but when you’re as brilliant as Ripley it doesn’t matter either way. She’s already very confident!
Ripley has been flying to us on cue the past couple of days and even this morning she greeted some visitors by perching on their gloved hands. She can only fly a few feet currently, but everyone takes baby steps or flights before they glide.