It's raining owlets at WildCare!
Every year we admit a few Great Horned Owlets, and once in a while we'll have a fluffy baby Northern Spotted Owl arrive at the Wildlife Hospital, but this year we've already admitted 12 owlets, and they continue to arrive!
The good news is that owlets that end up on the ground don't usually hurt themselves in their tumbles. Their light weight and downy fluff (not to mention their wings) help them drift down when they lose their balance, rather than falling hard to the ground.
Rescuers bring these large, fluffy babies to WildCare, and our team gives them a full exam, including x-rays and blood work, to determine if they're healthy enough to be returned to the nest.
The three owlets in the video below are awaiting their exams. Although they are of different species (the two smaller owlets are Northern Spotted Owls and the larger owlet is a Great Horned Owl), keeping them together in an aviary gives them a sense of security and companionship that only other owls can provide.
While these owlets receive their medical check-ups, WildCare's Raptor Reunite Team (RRT) has gone into action to determine where each owlet's nest is, confirm that the parent owls are still nearby, and size up the situation for a reunite attempt. It takes a tremendous amount of reconnaissance to successfully reunite one owlet, let alone 12 of them, and for the Northern Spotted Owlet above, this will be the second reunite attempt.
Watch WildCare's Director of Animal Care, Melanie Piazza skillfully capture each owlet from the perch in the video below.
While they are in care, we need to make sure that these owlets remain healthy and well fed.
Although owlets at this age are able to feed themselves by picking up prey brought by the parent owls and swallowing it whole, we supplement their feedings with tweezer-feeds to make sure that they have a good amount of calories on board for their reunite attempt. It sometimes takes a day for the parent owls to find their prodigal youngster, and making sure these owlets are full gives the reunite attempt time to succeed.
In the video below you can see our Medical Staff tweezer-feeding the owlet. His talons have been painted purple to help the team identify him. This came in handy when this owlet came down from his nest tree a second time-- we were able to tell that this was the same baby owl we had reunited before.
Radiographs (x-rays) are one of the most essential diagnostic tools WildCare's Medical Staff has to determine if an animal is injured.
The x-ray to the left is from the second Northern Spotted Owl chick, and it shows that he is perfectly healthy and that he did not suffer any fractures when he fell from the tree.
The Wildlife Hospital offers an incredible opportunity to see these baby owls up close, and this year's plethora of owlets has given the team ample time to compare the different species.
The owlet in the video below is a Great Horned Owl. He was successfully reunited last week, and our spotters confirm that the mother and father owl continue to feed this baby.
In this video, you can see how big this owlet is, compared to the Northern Spotted Owl in the video above. You can already see the beginnings of the tufted feathers that comprise the "horns" on a Great Horned Owl, and you'll notice the bright yellow owls on this youngster.
Compare his eyes with the coal-black eyes of the Northern Spotted Owl chick, and you can understand more about where these owls live and hunt. The Great Horned finds his prey in open fields or woodlands, while the Northern Spotted Owl lives in dark, silent redwood forests where bright yellow eyes could be a liability.
Both of these baby raptors have ferocious talons and large feet, which they'll use, once they've grown up, to grab their rodent prey.