Re-nesting Owlets

Have you ever wondered what happens when our clinic receives a baby owl?

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Baby owls fall from their nests for a variety of reasons, and oftentimes the finder isn’t sure if the baby is injured or orphaned. They bring us the owlet for evaluation, just to be safe. We check for injuries and assess their hydration and overall condition. If the owl needs rehabilitation, we have very specific criteria we follow to ensure the babies do not imprint on humans and can be released back to the wild once they are grown. Fortunately, more often than not the baby is healthy and uninjured, and after a feeding is able to be re-united with its parents. We do this by re-nesting; it is quite an adventure! Here, you can read Mark’s behind-the-scenes info (Mark is one of our main tree climbers).

“Spring is here and the time approaches where we start getting calls about juvenile owls found down on the ground. Whether they’ve fallen from branches, been blown out of their nest, or the nest has fallen apart, we retrieve them and evaluate for good health. We then try to return them either to their nest, or to a nearby spot in a “basket nest.” We have had a number of Barn Owls, which can be re-nested with a ladder because they usually nest inside barns. We may even get a hawk or two. But for the most part, the re-nestings involve Great Horned owlets.

Great Horned Owls (sometimes referred to as GHOW or GHO in the bird world) usually take over existing nests and don’t seem to be too particular about them. I have encountered situations where the old ‘nest’ has nothing left to it but the bottom. Often, I can locate an adult and be sure that I am in the right vicinity, but am unable to locate the actual nest. In those cases, I haul up a basket about 2′ in diameter and I latch it to a secure spot, preferably with a couple of branches supporting it, and about 60′ or so up the tree. I line the basket with leaves, twigs, and moss, and place the juvenile into it. If I haven’t actually seen an adult present during this process, I will ask the person who found the owl to keep an eye on the nest and let us know ASAP whether or not they have spotted an adult taking care of the juvenile. I have personally been surprised by how many landowners actually do keep track of who is nesting up in the trees on their property.

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In our experience, the key to most successful re-nestings is getting the owlet back up the tree as soon as possible. If the baby is gone, the adults will not stick around long, unless there is a sibling in the nest.  We usually do not have that information in advance, so promptness is vital. We endeavor to re-nest within 24 hours of the juvenile being found. This will give the baby its best chance of rejoining its parents and being cared for. That being the case, it is vitally important that if you do encounter a juvenile on the ground, please notify us at Chintimini Wildlife Center right away and we can work together to try to ensure the health and continuation of our wildlife population.”

Mark Meyer, In-house Tree Climber at CWC

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