Great Horned Owlet #19-0148

Admitted
March 13, 2019
Rescue Location
Chesterfield County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Fell out of nest
Status
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On March 13, the Wildlife Center admitted hatchling Great Horned Owl #19-0148 from Chesterfield County. The owl was found by Chesterfield County Animal Control after the young bird fell from the nest and was then taken to a nearby veterinary hospital for initial assessment before being transferred to the Wildlife Center for continued care.

Upon arrival at the Center, the veterinary team examined the owlet, who appeared bright, alert, and responsive. Both the physical examination and radiographs were unremarkable; there were no signs of trauma or wounds, and the owlet appeared healthy. The veterinary team started the owlet on anti-inflammatories to treat any possible inflammation that could occur after the bird fell from the nest.

The Center prioritizes reuniting healthy, young animals with wild parents whenever possible. The staff was unsuccessful in locating an appropriate nest to renest owlet #19-0148; the owlet will need to remain in the care of the Wildlife Center until early fall, when the bird will be old enough for release.

Because the owlet is healthy, the Center’s rehabilitation staff will provide daily care of the owlet. The young bird is currently being fed twice a day and is eating on its own. When dropping off and picking up food, the rehabilitation team member remains quiet and wears a mask and hat to prevent the bird from inappropriately imprinting on humans.

It’s best for young raptor patients to be with an adult role model of the same species. The Center’s surrogate Great Horned Owl Papa G’Ho will serve as a surrogate parent for owlet #19-0148 during its stay at the Center. Papa G’Ho and owlet #19-0148 began introductions on March 20. The process begins with both owls being placed in crates facing each other, so that the owlet can visualize Papa G’Ho.

Once the young bird is old enough to thermoregulate [maintain its own body temperature], the bird will be acclimated to the outside by being moved outside during the day and back inside at night. Once acclimated, both Papa G’Ho and owlet #19-0148 will be moved to an outdoor flight pen where they will remain until the owlet is ready for release.

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Patient Updates

On July 1, wildlife rehab intern Kylee went into the A2 flight enclosure to feed and water the Great Horned Owl family – Papa G’Ho and his three owlets. Kylee was horrified to discover that one of the owlets, #19-0148, had been killed in the past day. Based on the remains, the rehabilitation staff believes that it was the work of a raccoon.

Wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey carefully checked the enclosure and found a space where she thinks a raccoon may have entered – it would be a tight squeeze, but it was the only possibility. She caught the rest of the Great Horned Owl family and temporarily moved them for the night to keep them safe. Repairs will be made on the enclosure today.

While it’s startling to think that a Great Horned Owl could be harmed by a raccoon, it’s likely that this juvenile owl just didn’t have the defense skills that it needed. The Center keeps young Great Horned Owls until the fall; though the owls can fly well by summer, they are not old enough to hunt for themselves, and typically rely on their parents for food and protection throughout the summer.

Great Horned Owlet #19-0148 is eating on its own and gaining weight. The young owlet has gained 390 grams since admission, and now weighs a total of 1.10 kilograms.

On March 29, another Great Horned Owlet was admitted to the Wildlife Center. The new owlet #19-0223 was placed in the crate with owlet #19-0148, so both owlets could see Papa G’Ho. The new owlet is at a different development stage than owlet #19-0148. Owlet #19-0223 is slightly older and already started “branching” – when a young birds sits on the branches of its nesting tree and starts explore more and flap its wings. This is a crucial behavior exhibited before fledging. In the case of these owlets in captivity, branching means sitting on the edge of a tub. Observing the older owl could help owlet #19-0148 learn these important natural behaviors.

On March 8, all three owls were moved to an outdoor enclosure. The owlets will spend the next several months in this enclosure with Papa G’Ho. With Papa, these young owls will learn how to behave appropriately so that they can hopefully be released back into the wild in the fall.