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Frail baby owl on webcam in Orange County has viewers concerned

March 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Thousands of people around the world have their eyes fixed on six barn owl chicks and their parents living their lives through streaming video.

Pete DeSimone set up the webcam 100 feet up inside a large cavity of an old eucalyptus tree at the Starr Ranch Sanctuary in Orange County.

"They're recording what they bring in to eat and their behavior and all that, so we're getting information and learning about them," said DeSimone, the sanctuary's manager.

Viewers have watched the male and female barn owls they laid their eggs and have witnessed the eggs hatch.

But one owlet is much smaller than the rest, and that has some viewers worried.

The youngest owlet is much smaller than the rest.

One webcam viewer wrote "Looks like #6 is hungry."

Another person wonders, "Can it be rescued?"

And yet another said "I want so badly to intervene."

"I completely understand that it really is a difficult thing to watch," DeSimone said. "But having some experience with these birds, we're watching something that's happening in millions of places in nests everywhere around the world.

"Just because we're watching, I don't feel it gives me the right to manipulate the situation."

DeSimone says the survival rate of offspring can be as low as 5 percent. He says the smallest owlet is getting fed and is so far surviving.

He said he believes the experience helps to educate others, letting thousands watch nature run its course without humans stepping in to help.