The Three Owlets
A call came into the center Sunday, Feb. 16th from a woman who discovered 3 owlets in the trunk of a dead palm tree that her husband had just cut down. She wanted to bring the babies to the center, but I asked her to send photos of the babies as well as the cut down tree & her yard. From her description, & the photos of the owlets, I discerned that they were nestling/fledgling screech owl babies. I was also able to see that there were no other trees in her yard but there were several in the neighbor’s yard which was directly behind hers. I asked her if she would consider borrowing a nest box from us and asking the neighbor in back if he would let us hang it from one of his trees. Since they had just cut down the tree that morning, I felt that there was a good chance that the mother owl would return to find her babies. Both finder & neighbor agreed to hang the box.
I called Monica from the Humane Unit and asked her if she could do me the favor of checking out the condition of the babies & put them into the nest box for the finder. Monica reported that they looked fine and that she had indeed placed them into the nest box.
Each day I called to check on them – but the finder had not seen the mother bird. I asked her to look for owl pellets or any other sign of the mother visiting the nest, but she could not tell.
On Thursday, February 20th -my day off-after climbing over the fence from one yard to the other, I climbed up a ladder, removed the nest box and brought it down to the ground so I could have a look inside.
Three terrified owlets were hunched in one corner of the box but appeared to be ok. I took each one out and gave it a quick check up. I also weighed each baby on my portable scale. I recorded the weights at 90, 95, & 98 grams. To the amusement of the homeowner, I cut up a dead mouse that I had brought along & fed some to each baby. I also gave them some oral fluids. Other curious neighbors came out to see the babies as well. The owlets seemed to be in good shape-not thin or down and out. They were, however, covered in bird mites which crawled all over me as I examined them. I placed them back in the box and hung it back up in the tree.
On Saturday, February 22nd -my day off- I decided that I would then take them back to the center to raise them myself. My great volunteer Stacia came along with her husband Lonnie and daughter Rachel to help and also to take photos andvideo. As soon as we went into the yard Rachel spotted the mother owl in a palm tree beside the nest box!
We carefully lowered the box to the ground and checked on the babies. We weighed them again and recorded their weights at 93, 98, & 103 grams. All looked healthy and had gained weight. I treated each with oral Ivermectin and then wrapped them in a towel moistened with mite spray to help rid them of the pests. We cleaned out the box, gave it a light spray of miticide and put in new clean bedding. We then returned them back to the box -while the next-door neighbor also took photos- and hung it back up in the tree.
Stacia & I returned that Wednesday and installed a motion activated camera in the nest box. We weighed the owlets-they were 97.5, 98 & 109 grams, and looked healthy & mite free.
We again visited the site that Saturday only to discover that all the owlets were gone and the mother had not been seen since the afternoon before. The camera recorded over 800 ten second videos! Towards the last of the videos it appears that the last of the babies left the nest at around 3am on February 28th. I am so glad that my decision to try to re-nest them was correct; baby animals always have the best chance of survival when they are raised by their parents-and yes, I am still scratching and have red welts all over me from the mites.
Another day in the life of a rehabber.