As It Happens

Man befriends giant, TV-loving owl family nesting outside his window

Some people get bored when they're stuck at home all day, but not Jos Baart. He's got a whole family of owls to keep him entertained.

Eurasian-eagle owl — the world's largest — hatched her chicks in a planter outside Jos Baart's apartment

Jos Baart spends his days watching TV with a family of Eurasian eagle-owls who have made their nest in a planter outside his third-storey apartment in Geel, Belgium. (Submitted by Jos Baart)

Some people get bored when they're stuck at home, but not Jos Baart. He's got a whole family of owls to keep him entertained.

That's because a Eurasian eagle-owl hatched three eggs in the planter outside Baart's third-storey apartment in Geel, Beglium, last month, and now he gets to watch them grow up. 

"It was just amazing. Very wonderful to see owls that [are] so unique that you can say it's once in a lifetime that you can see this," Baart told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"I am sitting by the window. I see the chicks. Yeah, the whole day you can look to it."

And that's exactly what he does. Through his living room window, Baart watches the baby owls, and the baby owls watch him back. Or sometimes, they all watch TV together, the little owls peering in through the window at the screen.

"When the television is on, they are seeing the movements," he said. "They [are] all three before the window for [a] half an hour or more to look at television."

Baart and the chicks have become good pals, he said. He can go right up to the window to visit them through the glass. Sometimes he'll tap on the window to just get a reaction out of them. 

Three Eurasian eagle-owl chicks are being raised in a planter outside a Belgian apartment. (Submitted by Jos Baart)

Their mother bird is a little less friendly with Baart. She mostly stays farther back, keeping an eye on him. If he makes too much noise or a sudden movement, she'll fly away.

But they do have their moments in the quiet morning hours — so long as he's careful. 

"In the morning at five o'clock, I come in the room, and when I see her sitting in the plant box, then I make very slowly movements to show that I don't disturb her," he said. 

"When the evening falls, she [flies] away to get some food. And Daddy brings food too in the night."

The mother owl keeps her distance. (Submitted by Jos Baart)

When Baart first heard something ruffling in his planter back in April, he thought the dreaded pigeons were back again. 

"Every year I have three nests of pigeons in the same plant box there, so I don't like them," he said. 

But a few days later he spotted her — a massive, beautiful, female bird of prey. Not long after that, a male appeared and the two started dancing and singing to each other.

And a few weeks after that, there were eggs. The mother abandoned her first nest, he said. But then she came back, laid more, and hatched them. 

The chicks watch Baart as he goes about his day, and they'll watch the TV when it's on. (Submitted by Jos Baart)

Her offspring may be babies, but they're anything but small. 

The Eurasian eagle-owl is the world's largest owl, according to Guinness World Records, with an average length of 66 to 71 centimetres, a weight of 1.6 to four kilograms and a wingspan of more than 1.5 metres.

Baart says each chick is about 30 centimetres tall, or "as big as a big chicken."

But like all little ones, the birds will eventually grow up and go away. He estimates he's got another four to six weeks before they start to fly, and will likely be gone for good by early fall.

"I will be happy, too, when they have a good future then," he said. "They will have a lucky life, I hope so, in free nature."


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Morgan Passi.

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