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What Would You Do If You Found an Injured Raptor?

Updated on October 25, 2012
Barn Owls are absolutely beautiful birds!
Barn Owls are absolutely beautiful birds! | Source

You Are Soaring Across a Field

The sun is just beginning to dip below the horizon, and you are hungry. Watching for the slightest sign of movement below, you are focused on the task at hand. Suddenly you experience an impact and you are knocked to the ground. What just happened? Struggling to regain your breath and overcome the shock and pain, you attempt to seek a high perch on which to rest and recover.

One of your wings is not working properly and you are helpless on the ground. As a raptor, you do not want to be earthbound. That makes you vulnerable to all kinds of predators. What will happen to you now?

This Bird Was Very Fortunate.

This bird was very fortunate to be helped by someone seeing its plight. Knowing the best thing to do would be to contact a wildlife rehabilitator for proper care, this kind person did just that.

Wildlife rehabbers are angels of mercy for animals of all kinds. My friend Claire, who specializes in large birds of prey, was kind enough to let me interview her so I could get some insight as to why she became a wildlife rehabilitator. I also learned some fun and interesting facts about her owl, Barney.

An Interview with a Wildlife Rehabilitator

I’d like to introduce you to a very knowledgeable animal lover, environmentalist and wildlife rehabilitator. Please meet my friend Claire M. and her owl, Barney from southern California.

Thanks for taking the time to be with us today. We are anxious to learn more about you and your owl. Please tell us about yourself.

Then Your Actual Title is?

I am a Senior Biologist currently working in environmental compliance. At the wildlife rehab center I was a supervising wildlife rehabber, but I don’t work there anymore.

What is Your Background?

I am a certified wildlife rehabilitator. I also have a Master’s degree in biology, but this is not a requirement for becoming a wildlife rehabilitator. The certification class is only two or three days of lecture and lab.

And Your Experience in wildlife rehabilitation?

Three years working at a wildlife rehabilitation center.

What is Your Work Experience?

Over 20 years experience as a field biologist in southern California.

How do people contact you for help with an injured owl or raptor?

I’m not currently working with a wildlife rehab center. If an injured bird comes my way, I have a list of contacts I can refer it to.

(These important links are listed to the right.)

Why Did You Decide to Become a Wildlife Rehabber?

I saw an advertisement for a wildlife rehabilitation center looking for volunteers. It looked intriguing.

Tyto Alba
Tyto Alba | Source

Why owls and/or raptors in particular? What is it about them that fascinates you?

Can’t really put my finger on that. They’re beautiful animals of course, but there is much more to it. They have a unique balance of opposites, like yin yang. They are powerful predators, but their bodies are so light and fragile. They can seem very quiet and passive, almost meditative, but at the same time be very alert and poised to react. Raptors have an ease about them, a gracefulness in every moment.

What obstacles, if any, did you have to overcome in your quest to save these animals?

The biggest obstacle is well-meaning people who try to help, but don’t have the training, skills, or facilities to properly care for wild animals. An injured or orphaned animal should be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. Unskilled care most often results in a poor outcome for the animal.

The negative?

Seeing a severely injured wild animal is emotionally difficult; it can just tear your heart out.

What is the positive side of your work?

Working with and getting to know individual wild animals.

Barney the Owl

Meet Barney
Meet Barney | Source

Please tell us a little something about your owl Barney:

What kind of an owl is he? He is a barn owl.

How old is he? Barney is approximately six years old now.

Why was he never released back into the Wild?

He suffered injuries to one wing that left him unable to fly. He cannot hunt or evade predators, and would not survive more than a few days in the wild.

What do you have to do daily to take care of him?

He requires daily feeding and fresh water, and his area needs to be cleaned of droppings, pellets, and leftover food every day. He eats rodents. I buy frozen feeder mice for him, and defrost about three mice for him every day.

How Does He Communicate?

Barney is very expressive. He has a large repertoire of vocalizations that he uses with other owls. He rarely talks to me, but will occasionally hiss or snap his beak if he’s irritated. He primarily communicates with me through body language and facial expressions, and his signals are very clear. In particular, there is no question when he is angry about something, dinner being late for example. You haven’t really gotten stink eye until you've gotten stink eye from an owl!

Barn Owl Range


Do these kinds of owls ever migrate?

They may move around seasonally, but don’t truly migrate.

What kind of a nest do they build? Barn owls are cavity nesters. They don’t build nests but occupy any type of cavity that will accommodate their eggs and chicks. Their pellets accumulate in the bottom of the cavity and decompose to form a soft lining.

Where do barn owls nest? Barn owls occupy a wide range of habitats, with the exception of high elevation forests. They typically require open fields, marshes, or grasslands for hunting.

barn owlets
barn owlets | Source

How many eggs do female barn owls lay?

They lay from two to 18 eggs, four or five is probably typical. Eggs are laid every few days, so there is a range in age between the chicks in a single brood.

How long before they hatch and then fledge? Barn owl eggs hatch in about a month. The baby owls achieve their adult size and plumage in about two months. The young adult owls will remain with their parents for several weeks.

Do they watch their parents to learn how to hunt? Or do they know instinctively?

Probably a combination of the two. The young adult owls start hunting on their own but will be fed by their parents if they are not successful.

More Excellent Information About Barn Owls

Detail of owl talon.
Detail of owl talon. | Source
Barn Owl in offensive mode.
Barn Owl in offensive mode. | Source
Six week old orphan barn owl raised by Barney and Claire.
Six week old orphan barn owl raised by Barney and Claire. | Source

What other owls or raptors have you taken care of, and/or released after rehabilitation?

I have cared for injured and orphaned screech owls, small hawks, and a peregrine falcon. Barney and I have raised many orphaned baby barn owls

What would Barney like to tell people about owls that they might not already know?

Barney would like to say that barn owls are beneficial animals that help to keep rodent populations at bay. A pair of nesting barn owls and their chicks can consume a thousand mice in a season.

Is there anything you or Barney would like to add?

One of the most awful things that can happen to a barn owl is to unknowingly consume a mouse that has eaten rat poison. The owl will die a horrible, agonizing death. So, please, please do not put out poison to control rodents, use humane traps instead.

Thank you Barney and Claire M. for your commitment to and involvement with these amazing animals. And thank you very much for taking the time to share all this valuable information with us.

Have You Ever Come Across an Injured Raptor?

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    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi tammyswallow! I'm very pleased you enjoyed this article. Your kind and supportive comments are really appreciated. My friend Claire has always been fond of all animals, but especially of the larger birds. Barn owls are truly beautiful, I think. Their feathers have such a warm coloration to them. She is very lucky as well to be able to observe and interact with the raptors on a regular basis. I catch sight of an owl on the wing once in a while, and I hear them hoo-hooing all the time. So I have to say I'm a little jealous! I'm so happy you stopped by! Thank you.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Sharkye11, so glad you stopped by! You know firsthand how difficult it can be to help an injured animal, and do it carefully and correctly. That's why I am very grateful for wildlife rehabbers. They are angels for the animals. We have a lot in common with our love of wildlife, you and I.

      Just this morning I went out to feed my birds and was surprised to see a deer standing not 10 feet away. They know I won't harm them, and I talk to them when they are close by. I think they are one of the most beautiful wild animals in my neck of the woods. This deer was in no hurry to run away, and continued to browse the recently uncovered grass. I raked all my leaves this past weekend!

      I am so glad you visited me. Thank you so much for the supportive comments. I enjoyed reading about your experiences helping wild animals. Pearl

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very interesting article about one of may favorite subjects--owls! When I was growing up we lived miles and miles out in the wilderness. The nearest vet was over fifty miles away, and there were no local rehab places for wild animals. Through trial and error, we learned a lot about medical attention not only for our own livestock, but for wild animals that we rescued.

      It is an awesome job, and very rewarding, but people should always be careful and remember that a wild animal can rarely be truly tamed. I never had the honor of caring for an owl but I can see how someone would grow to love a job like that!Great hub! Beautiful pictures!

    • tammyswallow profile image


      5 years ago from North Carolina

      This is very beautiful and well written. What a wonderful task. I would have to turn to a professional if I found an owl. I wouldn't know the first thing on how to care for it. When I was young my family took in injured animals. We had a raccoon and and a possum. Gorgeous and interesting hub!

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Scribenet, I am very glad you found this useful. Most places have licensed wildlife rehabilitators, so I hope you find one in your area just in case. That was a close call with your hawk and dove! I had a dove bang in to one of my windows once. Luckily it was able to fly to a branch to recover, and it eventually flew away.

      A couple of times I have had to take 'late-born' baby squirrels to a wildlife rehabilitator. They are born too late in the season, and the parents abandon the nest to hunt for food to store for the winter. They don't even have their eyes open yet, but they move around and fall from the nest trying to find their mother. It's a very sad situation. The rehabbers don't have an answer as to why this might happen, but they gladly nurse the babies back to health. When I called to ask I was told that both of the babies I found had been returned to the wild in good condition. Wildlife rehabilitators are angels here on Earth I think!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. It is very much appreciated.

    • Scribenet profile image


      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I almost had an injured hawk on my hands when it flew into a window pursuing a dove. I didn't think of it since both flew away, but had they been injured I would not have known what to do.

      Now I will have to see what kind of services they have here for injured wildlife...hopefully there is something.

      Thanks for making me think about this.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Farmer Rachel, so glad you stopped by. My friend Claire and of course Barney, are pleased at the good response this article has generated. I was amused to hear about your father's rehab experience and the owl who was able to fly away (at its earliest opportunity) thanks to him. I appreciate all your supportive comments and your visit!

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      lrc7815, thank you very much for your lovely and supportive comments. You are absolutely right when you say that humans don't often think about the results of their actions. That is especially true when it comes to wildlife, but it also holds true for all us humans as well if you think about it! For every action there is a reaction, whether it be positive or negative.

      I'm very glad you enjoyed this article. Rehabilitators are a special breed for sure. I don't know how they are able to become that close to an animal and then release it. I think that would tear my heart out! The only saving grace would be to know that it would have another chance at freedom and a normal life. Your comments are always insightful and thoughtful. They are very much appreciated!

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota

      What a nice story. This was a great hub :) My dad told me he rehab-ed an owl when we was a teenager, and let it go when it could fly again... well, I guess it would be more accurate to say that it escaped when it was able to fly again, but either way!

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 

      6 years ago from Central Virginia

      What a wonderful hub! There is a ton of good information in this piece. I especially appreciate the warning about not using poison for mice. Humans rarely think about the cycles of nature and how one action affects the natural food chain. Wildlife rehabilitators are unsung heroes. Kudos to you for shining the light on Clair, Barney, and your love for birds.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Eiddwen, what a lovely compliment to be included with your favorites. You have no idea how much that means to me! You are so sweet. Many thanks for reading and leaving such a supportive comment. Pearl

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant share and I have to save this gem in with my favourite hubs.


    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Deb, that video is a hoot! It's amazing how some animals that would be natural enemies can get along so well. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Your visits are always very much appreciated.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Claire and Barney. Look at this website for a Spanish cat and barn owl, who are best friends:

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Thanks Billy! I have always been fascinated by raptors, and especially owls. My grandparents had a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, and that is where I first saw an owl soaring out from the highest barn window. I wasn't allowed up into the hay mow, but that was the start of my relationship with barn owls.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed this article. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

      It's always nice when you come by.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Fascinating information about an incredible species. I love raptors, and I found this very interesting! Thanks for the info!


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