When the winds off the Pacific Ocean pick up, it can get really windy in Marin County where WildCare is located!
Earlier this month, when strong gusts moved through our region, everyone at WildCare knew that baby animals of many species were likely being tossed from their nests by the wind.
We were right! This fluffy baby Great Horned Owl was only one of dozens of patients admitted to the Wildlife Hospital recently due to wind.
This owlet is what we call a "brancher," meaning that he's old enough to hop-fly out of his nest and practice building his wing strength on the branches nearby. This can be a precarious position, especially when a strong gust of wind comes through just as he's teetering between branches with his wings outstretched!
Fortunately, as is frequently the case, this young owl didn't hurt himself in his fall.
The owls' nest is in a tall redwood tree on the property of a retirement community. A resident found the owlet, probably not long after he had fallen, and had the security guard at the gate call for assistance. A Marin Humane officer arrived to transport the fluffy-but-fierce baby to WildCare for an exam.
Interestingly, owlets of many species, including Great Horned Owls, can climb back to their nests using the sharp talons on their feet and their beaks. It's never graceful, but in many situations, it's possible to give the owlet space and time to clamber his way back up the tree.
This owlet had taken quite a tumble, however, and his location on a busy walking path meant he could be at risk from pedestrians and dogs. Getting him to WildCare for a checkup was the best choice.
Watch him being fed in the video below!
In the Wildlife Hospital, our team did a full exam and radiographs to confirm the young bird was not injured. We placed him in an enclosure with another, slightly younger Great Horned Owlet while the Raptor Reunite Team confirmed that the parent owls and sibling remained in the nest tree, making a reunite possible.
Our Wildlife Hospital volunteers and interns were thrilled at the opportunity to interact with and feed these wonderful baby raptors! In the photo to the left, Wildlife Hospital Intern Rebecca tweezer-feeds the younger owlet.
Are you interested in helping animals like these young Great Horned Owls? WildCare's Wildlife Hospital is currently accepting applications for volunteers!
Volunteering in the Wildlife Hospital is not all about feeding babies like these owlets — dishes and laundry, cage cleaning, and meal prep make up the bulk of a volunteer's duties — but knowing you're making a difference for wildlife like Great Horned Owls makes volunteering at WildCare a truly incredible opportunity.
With confirmation that the baby was healthy enough for a reunite, volunteer arborist James Reed agreed to meet the next day to do the climb and place the baby owl halfway up the nest tree. Because our baby is a brancher who can hop between branches, there was no need for the climber to go all the way up to the nest itself, thereby traumatizing the adult owls and the other baby owl with the presence of a human "predator" in their tree.
James successfully placed the young owl on a branch, where he sat for a while getting re-accustomed to his surroundings. Click here to see him on his branch in VIDEO.
Reunite day was also very windy, so our team worried that the young owl might get blown down again. A spotter returned to the nest site later that evening and confirmed that the owlet had not returned to the ground. A few days later we were able to confirm that our baby and his sibling were both resting comfortably at the top of the tree with their owl parents.
Another success story for the Raptor Reunite Team!
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