Spring is in the air, which for most people means warmer weather and longer days, but for the wildlife rescue and rehabilitation community it means baby season. And this baby season has started off a little earlier than expected with our Fund for Animals Wildlife Center taking in three baby Great Horned Owls from the same nest over the course of one week.
As baby owls grow they begin to practice branch hopping to strengthen their legs. They are still too young to fly, so they just hop about in and out of the nest to nearby branches. As is expected, sometimes they fall during these fledgling attempts, but they can be put back in the tree because they can grip the branches. But these three babies came in with no leg strength or the ability to grip a perch, so it was assumed they fell out of the nest and are therefore too young to be put back in the tree.
In addition, the nest itself was being taken apart by crows and the owl family was being harassed by hawks making it too dangerous of an environment for such vulnerable babies to be placed back into. Sadly this was probably a new owl parent pair who did not have the experience to select a good nesting spot or to know how to defend their nest. While we try to reunite babies with their parents when possible, in this situation it was not in the best interest of these young owls.
These little owlets will be with us for at least the next two months and will require a lot of care. Please consider making a small donation to help us care for these little babies and the many more that will inevitably make their way to our center during this baby season.
When all three arrived they were a little banged up from their falls but otherwise healthy. They all began eating once they were encouraged to do so by placing small bits of food near their beaks. Since they are so young they do not yet understand how to pick up food from the ground, so we have to mimic the feeding style their parents would use.
Since they arrived they have been in our Intensive Care Unit, but we expect them to progress steadily. Once they have demonstrated they can hop and are in the habit of picking up food off the ground, we can move them to a nest box in our aviary. There they can finish developing their leg muscles and start hopping in and out of the nest, as well as making flight attempts as their primary feathers grow in, which should happen about a month from now.
As they grow and begin to test out their wings, we’ll set up the enclosure to encourage them to fly more and build their flight muscles. The hope is for them to grow well-developed flight muscles and a good skill set to allow them to care for themselves in the wild, so we can release them back out into their natural habitat—hopefully around mid-to-late May. But all signs point towards these little owls making a full recovery, so in the meantime we’ll continue to enjoy their adorably fluffy faces.