Great Horned Owl Nestling Reunited with its Parents

On April 4, the Center received a call about a young Great Horned Owl that had fallen from its nest at a golf course in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The owlet’s nest appeared to be intact, but it was about 40 feet up a very tall pine tree. Re-nesting birds and reuniting them with their parents is always the best option for young wild birds, but in this case, the staff wanted to thoroughly check the owlet to ensure it was healthy after falling from such a significant height – plus, they’d need additional expert help with scaling such a tall tree!

LVT Supervisor Jess Ransier was able to safely retrieve the young owlet and bring it to the Center. The young bird was bright and alert, and the veterinary team did not find any injuries on the bird’s physical examination or radiographs. The images did show that the owl had been very well-fed – the veterinary team was able to identify several partially-digested bird meals in the owl’s stomach!

Radiograph of the owlet showing partially digested meals in the owl's stomachWith a clean bill of health, the owlet received fluids and was placed in the Center’s ICU for the night, while the team planned a re-nesting attempt for the following day.

Fortunately, the staff were able to call on the skills and equipment of senior veterinary intern Dr. Olivia’s partner, who is a rock climber and former arborist. They picked the owlet up from the Center on the morning of April 5 and brought the young bird back to its nesting tree, where they saw one of the parent owls on the nest.

Dr. Olivia’s partner was able to get his gear in place and easily climbed the tree; Dr. Olivia placed the owlet in a pillowcase before it was safely pulled up the tree to the nest. Another owlet was in the nest, as well as a carcass of an adult rabbit – as Dr. Olivia noted, the owlet "won’t be hungry even for a moment!”

After the re-nesting, both parent owls returned to the nest to care for their young. Overall, it was a great re-nesting success!