Great Horned Owlet #19-0340

April 10, 2019
Rescue Location
Henrico County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Fell from nest
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On April 10, a Great Horned Owlet #19-0340 and its nest mate, owlet #19-0341, were transferred from a permitted wildlife rehabilitator to the Wildlife Center. Private citizens found the owlets after they fell from their nest.

During the owlet’s admission exam, radiographs revealed that the young owlet had a previous fracture in its right tibiotarsus – a bone that corresponds to the tibia or shinbone in humans. Because young animals bones grow quickly, they also heal very quickly, particularly in avian species. The bird’s fracture had already formed bony callouses on the end of the bone segments and started to heal out of alignment.

In order to repair this displaced fracture, the veterinary staff needed to re-break the bone and realign the fracture. Dr. Ernesto performed this surgical repair on April 12. He cut the bone where it previously healed and scraped down the callouses on both ends of the bone. Once the bones lined up properly, pins were placed to stabilize the fracture. With the owlet still sedated, the veterinary team performed radiographs to confirm proper alignment and attached external hardware to the pins on either side of the bird’s leg to further stabilize the fracture as it heals.

Owlet #19-0340 has been gaining weight; at admission, the bird weighed 610 grams and as of April 23, weighed 780 grams. Following surgery, the owlet began daily physical therapy sessions with the rehabilitation staff. They reported that the owlet was able to grip with its right foot and the bird was weight-bearing on the leg, but was not holding it entirely under its body.

The veterinary staff took additional radiographs on April 19 to check the alignment. Unfortunately, the owlet’s leg is not healing straight and needed further surgical repair. Dr. Karra performed surgery on April 21 to remove part of the callus and realign the fractured bone again.

Dr. Karra is concerned that the owlet’s right leg will be significantly shorter than the left because so much bone has been removed to properly align the fracture. The team will continue to monitor the owlet’s growth, appetite, and attitude, and repeat radiographs and physical assessments in the coming weeks will be important in determining if the owlet’s leg is healing appropriately.

Owlets #19-0340 and #19-0341 are currently housed together in a crate in one of the Center’s holding areas. If owlet #19-0340’s begins to heal appropriately, the rehabilitation team will move both owlets in a crate to surrogate Great Horned Owl Papa G’Ho’s enclosure during the day and back inside at night. This will allow the young owls to see Papa and the other owlets he is currently fostering [#19-0148 and #19-0223]; this helps the owls to properly imprint on an adult of the same species.

Your donation will help provide supportive care to this owlet — and our entire owl family! — for the next six months! Thanks for your help. 

Patient Updates

Additional radiographs were taken of Great Horned Owlet #19-0340 on April 26 to see if the bird’s leg was healing appropriately. These radiographs revealed bone and joint issues in the right leg, possibly from that leg being unusable for a period of time; additionally, radiographs show that the leg was healing in a way that would make the right tibiotarsus much shorter than the left. With one leg shorter than the other, the owlet would be unable to hunt or perch as required for a normal, healthy Great Horned Owl, and would also be prone to foot issues. The veterinary team elected to humanely euthanize the owlet.