Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

Whether March arrives like a lion or a lamb, it’s the month for baby owls. It’s the blowing of the spring winds, which tests the durability of any Great Horned owl nest. You see, Great Horned owls don’t construct their own nests, they move into nests that are already made; built by other raptors, squirrels and crows. Add a full grown parent and two or three owlets and a nest that is old and already weak is bound to give way eventually.

This is where the Center comes to into the picture. First a baby owl will be found on the ground and brought into the Center. Animal Care staff will do a physical exam on the owl to ensure that it is in good condition. In the meantime, another staff member will visit the rescue site on a “reconnaissance” mission, looking for signs of the old nest, any other members of the family, food remnants, pellets or whitewash. And if they’re lucky, they will see one or both parents in the immediate area.

Once the old nest is located a new site nearby is chosen. The new nest will be constructed of a wicker laundry basket, lined with boughs and secured to the tree with bungee cords. A new nest can last in a tree, three to four years before having to be replaced. Next, the Center will contact one of our tree-climbing volunteers. The tree climbing volunteers are equipped with ropes, harnesses and spikes, exactly like the equipment used by tree trimmers and utility repairmen.

Arrangements will be made with the homeowner to return to their property with the owlet and to place the new nest in the tree. Once there, the owlets are placed inside a container that the tree climber will carry or pull up through the tree until it reaches the new nest. The tree climber will carefully remove the baby owlet(s) from the carrier and place them gently into the nest. All the while, the spotter below will be assisting the climber and searching the nearby trees for the parents.

It’s important that at least one of the parents returns to the nest site within 24 hours of the re-nest, as the owlets need to be fed regularly when they are young. Property owners are asked to watch for parents visiting the nest in the early dawn and late afternoon to evening and report back to the Center their observations. It’s from their information that we know a successful reunion has been made. To date, WINC has received six owlets, five owls in one day alone!

-Guest Blogger KF

1 comment:

  1. T. McCarten/Mineapolis, MNJune 22, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    Wonderful photo essay! What a lot of work you guys put into restoring the owlets to their nest. Kudos to you!