(1) Young Tawny Owl
(2) Adult injured
(3) But not too badly
A young Tawny Owl, that has left the nest and went walkabout, is not a big problem.
It is a common thing that young owls do when they reach a certain age and they want to explore, they go walkabot as they cannot fly at this time. This is the time that you may come across looking so helpless and lost. It is far from the truth, so don’t treat them as lost, and take them home with you. They are being well looked after by their parents, and if you take them away, and after a few days, return them, it may be too late as their parents may have nothing more to do with them. Leave well alone, unless they are in danger from dogs or cats etc.
Other birds, then, look for a place of safety for them, like a high branch of a tree, without endangering yourself by climbing too high and getting stuck, or worse still, falling off!
This is the time that you will find plenty of young birds that have exercised their wings as they sit on a branch near their nest. They may at times get too much lift from winds and take off without intending to, and as they are not in a fit state to be in mid-air, they land heavily on the ground, and many will not be able to get back up to the nest.
To some birds this is not a big problem as they will soon find shelter and will be fed, but a great number will have difficulty, like say, the Rook family, as they nest very high up at just about the tops of the trees, and there is no way that they will be able to climb back up, as their claws are no good for getting a grip on the tree trunk, and as most rooks build their nest near habitation , then they have the added danger of having cats to contend with, and as a rookery may have hundreds of chicks, that a great number of them will hit the ground, especially during high winds.
The size of the rookeries is getting bigger, so the loss that they sustain has not seriously harmed their amounts. A sad case is when you come across a little bird with no feathers. This one may have been inadvertently pulled out of the nest by the parent as it took off .If it survived the fall it will surely die from the cold etc. If you can find the nest, which should be very near, then pop it in an all will be well, as long as you have chosen the right nest?
The Owl family however can cope with this problem as they are well equipped with claws that they can climb with, with the added help of their little part feathers wings that they flap like mad to assist them in their attempts to get up high once again. If the climb is too much, then they will find a suitable spot, then, as their parent’s callout for them, they will return the call and will then be fed.
Wet weather could cause big problems as they will not have the heat from either of their parents to keep them warm, so the more well formed their feathers are, the better to shed off the rain, as downy feathers are no good in wet conditions.
At this time of year there are plenty of daylight hours, so hopefully they may have plenty of sunshine to keep the dry and warm till their feathers become big enough to shed water.
Another Owl that goes walkabout, is the Short Eared Owl, in fact they nest on the ground, so it’s no hardship for them at all. As the chicks get to a decent size they leave the nest and look for a spot of their own. This is a good idea, as if a predator finds the nest, it could devour all the chicks, but if they have made their own hidey-hole, then they will survive for longer.
They will be fed at their chosen place, and it is good fun watching the parents with a mouthful of food, flying low over the heather calling for them, then a short drop to the ground, feed the chick, time taken about five seconds, the go and search for more food for the rest of the family, which may be four or five. The chicks are fairly safe this way, as where that prey there are few land predators, like mink, dogs or cats, or humans.
So as you go about your travels at the present time, you may be lucky as me and come across a big ball of fluff with a sharp beak and claws, with big dark eyes.
First Published in the Buteman 13-08-2004.
At time of printing there were no foxes and very few mink, but things have changed as at now, March 2013
The adult Owl had fallen down a chimney at Ardbeg, and it was a high-up chimney, so it must have landed a cropper! Clean chimney, no soot, but severely ruffled feathers.
I was called out to rescue it. Very docile, so out into the open, put on branch, and it flew away.
Its eyes were closed, due to the bright sun, and all was well.