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What Would You Do If You Found an Injured Raptor?
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.
- The Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory
A complete source for information about wildlife rehabilitation, including what to do if you find an injured/orphaned animal and who to contact for help. Also contains much information for the professional wildlife rehabilitator and the public.
- The Wildlife Rehabilitation Directory
Wildliferehabber.org is particularly useful for someone who has found an animal and needs help or advice.
- Home | National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA)
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Owl Nest Boxes
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.