Rogue Valley Manor's newest and youngest residents have commandeered a penthouse apartment for themselves, and Manor managers say they don't give a hoot.
Two barn owls hatched Friday morning from a clutch of five eggs laid by their mother in a makeshift nest on a sixth-floor patio atop the Manor's Skyline Plaza in southeast Medford.
The feather-bare owlets pecked their way through their shells in a nest made from a floor mat and lined with owl pellets on the patio of a one-bedroom, vacant apartment used as a touring model for prospective residents.
The apartment is well out of reach of preying foxes, and the fields below are loaded with rodents for their doting father to provide for his growing family — and Manor executives are in no hurry to send them an eviction notice.
"Those owls know how to pick an apartment," says Brian McLemore, CEO of Pacific Retirement Services, the Manor's parent company.
"It's the best place to be," McLemore says. "We have security, dining facilities, everything. Stay as long as you need."
The owlets likely will be squatting for another 12 weeks before they fledge, owl experts say.
Resident birder Connie Stroud says she's seen her new neighbors but isn't planning any welcome-wagon festivities for these birds that would rather keep to themselves.
"My feeling is to try to stay away as much as I can," says Stroud, who moved here from Carmel, Calif., about 18 months ago.
Most nesting barn owls take care of that themselves. A common bird found on six continents, barn owls prefer to nest in hollow trees, cliff cavities, secluded building eaves and in nest boxes erected by caring humans. They are considered excellent neighbors because they will eat three or more mice, moles or other small rodents a day, usually swallowing them whole and later regurgitating a pellet of fur, bones and other undigested matter.
Known for their disc-shaped faces, adult barn owls grow about a foot long with a 40-inch wingspan yet weigh less than 2 pounds. Night hunters, males ply fields for small mammals they feed to their mates and offspring until the babies are large enough to fly.
Stroud says she hopes the owlets will stay out of view of hawks, eagles and other raptors that would make a meal out of the owl chicks.
The nesting owl was discovered a month ago by staff members, McLemore says. And though a few residents have ventured in for glimpses — and it did make the Plaza newsletter — staff members are steering clear of their new residents.
Several dozen of the egg-sized pellets line the nest and litter the balcony, which won't be cleaned or otherwise disturbed until the babies fledge, McLemore says.
"We're holding off on any move-ins there until the new happy family has moved," McLemore says. "Although, the place is so nice, they might not want to move."
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.