Christmas Time Owl
By Jennifer Taylor, Animal Care Coordinator & Internship Coordinator
The day before the day before Christmas Eve, Wild Care received a call from a woman who had found a Screech Owl on the road by her house. Her name was
MaryLynn and she was very grateful to have a place to bring the owl. She is one of those people I wish I was, meaning a person who is hyper-aware of the animals in her outdoor space and actually knows the individuals. She had screech owl boxes in her yard, and believed this owl one of the occupants. I assured her we would do our best for her owl and gave her the owl’s ID card so she could check on its status.
The bird had some missing head feathers and a very swollen eye. It was stunned, weak and wobbly. All classic signs of a collision. The bird’s body condition was
very good, (on the chunky side), and still well-hydrated, so I knew this injury was very recent. After a few days of nutritional fluids and rest, it was stable. Dr. Morgan had seen pupil response in the injured eye, so we had hope for its vision. On Christmas Day it finally began perching and clacking its beak at us. What a great Christmas present! A few days later it was eating on its own.
MaryLynn called many times for updates and had ordered a night vision, binocular/camera combination in anticipation of the release. After improvement in the eye
was confirmed by Dr. Morgan, the bird was put outside into an aviary to get stronger and acclimate for a couple of weeks. It has been proven that adult owls (already having the experience of hunting can survive in the wild with compromised vision in one eye). When the bird was ready, we formed our release plan. We gently plugged its nest box hole during the day and put the nest box into a carrier. She had chosen a place near the nest box that she believed this owl was familiar with on her property. She opened the entrance hole when it was dark and watched at a long distance with her newly purchased spy equipment. She named him Birch.
It has been well over a month now and MaryLynn has been on the case. She has seen the bird regularly. There is no way of truly knowing without an eye exam if the
owl she has been seeing since the release of Birch, is actually Birch. But, MaryLynn knows it is a good possibility that it has chosen to stay in the territory it knows and has thrived. She is now seeing it sun itself often in the afternoon in the box where Birch had a family last year. MaryLynn is hoping for a new family this year. The night vision binoculars will be getting a lot of use this spring!
*Please reserve your tree felling for the late fall/winter months. Owls are nesting now and have eggs or young. Screech owls prefer to nest in deadwood cavities.
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