Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Tail of Two Star Crossed Lovers

O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?

The quote above may easily have been the call of a female Barred Owl, stuck inside a chimney in the Village of Menomonee Falls. On the eve of Saturday, February 13th, the homeowners heard a rustling inside the vent of their fireplace, similar to that of a trapped animal. The noise continued the following day, causing the concerned homeowner to call upon a local wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. It was early Monday morning when the rehabilitators arrived to inspect the fireplace and if needed remove whatever may be causing the commotion inside the chimney. To everyone’s surprise it was not a raccoon, squirrel or wayward bird, but a female Barred Owl! Given the time of year (see owl facts below), it’s possible that while looking for a nest site she found her way to the uncapped chimney. While inspecting the chimney, she may have fallen in and was subsequently not able to fly out. Thankfully, after being trapped for more than 2 days, the rescue was complete and an exhausted and dehydrated Barred Owl was brought to the Wildlife in Need Center. A short time later though, much to everyone’s surprise, the rescuers called to inform us that a second owl, (possibly the mate?) was also trapped in the chimney. Had he entered the area looking for his lost partner? Or had he been trapped higher in the chimney out of sight? Interestingly, Sunday, February 14th was Valentine’s Day and it was that day that most of the sounds had come from the chimney. Could the chimney have been the location of a lovers tryst?

It was later in the day that the male Barred Owl arrived, only slightly dehydrated and in better shape than his female counterpart. Currently both owls are being treated for dehydration and will hopefully be in care for only a short time. They have no idea the delight it brings us all each time they call to each other from their separate enclosures. Meanwhile, the homeowner of the chimney has quickly responded to the situation and is having all of their chimneys capped as this story is written.
Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.

Romeo, Act I, scene iv

The Barred Owl is a medium-sized gray-brown owl streaked with white horizontal barring on the chest and vertical barring on the belly, hence the name. Often confused by name with the Barn Owl, Barred Owls have a round-headed with a whitish/brown facial disk and dark brown trim. Their eyes are dark brown, and the beak is yellow and almost covered by feathers. There is no difference in plumage between the male and female. Primarily a nocturnal owl, you’ll find them roosting high in the trees, camouflaged next to a trunk, or nesting in an open cavity. Their calls are very distinct "Hoo, hoo, too-HOO; hoo, hoo, too-HOO, ooo" which can often sound like "Who, cooks, for-you? Who, cooks, for-you, all?" Barred owls will eat a variety of foods, but meadow voles are its main prey. Squirrels and young rabbits make up a part of their diet, including an occasional roosting bird. Barred Owls also eat animals you would find near a pond or marsh, like frogs, snakes, crickets, and grasshoppers. The courtship for these owls begins in February, with breeding occurring between March and August. Barred Owls mate for life. How long do they live? They can live up to 23 years in captivity and 10 years in the wild. Great Horned Owls are their only natural enemy.
-KF (aka CBL)

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