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A Very Scary Owl

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Although Bird Watcher's Digest is not a wildlife rehabilitation center, they get a lot of calls about busted birds and orphaned baby birds in season. This time of year, when the phone rings, it's almost always about an injured bird. There's not a lot I can do for most injuries, because I'm not a veterinarian, and I lack the skills and resources to do surgery or administer medication. So when Bird Watcher's Digest gets a call, they call me, and if I can help I do. Anything badly injured has to go to Ohio Wildlife Center, more than two hours away in Columbus.

This little brown-morph eastern screech-owl was found in the road on December 2, 2013, in Waterford, Ohio, having taken a blow to the left side of its head. That's never a good thing, because owl eyes are very vulnerable, and a good smack can damage the eye or the optic nerve and leave the owl blind.

It spent the day in a cardboard box draped with a towel at the office, and Bill put the whole thing in a bigger box, and brought it home that evening.

When he lifted the lid on the Dunder-Mifflin box the owl was sitting atop the towel! It glared at us and hopped down, trundling like a little old man across my big flatfile. I was fully gloved and prepared, and I caught it quickly. Those talons went right through my batgloves, so it was a durn good thing I pulled my fingers back out of the glove fingers at the last instant. I secured its feet and did a quick exam. Not a bone broken in wing or leg. Hoooray!!

The left eye, however, showed a little red blood in the iris, which isn't good. On the other hand, the eye was intact and not deflated, which is good. The pupil seemed enlarged, which means it probably isn't working right, but that's understandable given the impact it took. The owl would need anti-inflammatory medication, something to help with brain and eye swelling. It would be a couple of weeks before we'd know if it was seeing out of the affected eye and thus a candidate for release. We sent it off with prayers and a lot of hope and love for its future.

Before that, though, I cut some raw chicken breast into strips and handed it one on a forceps. The owl snapped it up and stood with the meat hanging from its bill for several minutes. I left it alone, then thought to turn off all the lights. When I returned the meat was gone. Same drill with a second strip. The third strip it accepted right from the forceps and gulped down. So I left it a dish heaped with chicken breast, which was gone come morning.

The bird looked so much better in the morning, when this video was made. It felt good enough to give me a threat display, which thoroughly traumatized me, it was so very scary. You be the judge. Warning. Not for the faint of heart!

Thankful, as always, that we have a place to take such foundlings. Check out The Ohio Wildlife Center's website . 

These good people take in and care for more than 3,000 injured and orphaned wild creatures each season. If you've got some spare dollars, it's a mighty good place to send them. Thank you!


Wonderful! Is the slow swaying part of the treat display, or part of the head injury?

Kathy in Delray Beach

What a treat to get to see this owl up close and personal! Amazing! I would not have known that was a threat display. :)

Oh this owl is in full possession of its brainpower. The swaying, puffing up and bill clacking is all threat display.

I hope the wildlife center will update you on the owl's recovery, so you can let us share the relief that it was successfully returned to it's natural home.

So glad you're there for them, Julie. And so glad we have the OWC for extended care. I'll be sending them my annual contribution this month!

Great post about a great owl! And I was waiting for it to spread its wings and screech at you. So I was ready--ha ha--didn't know what the threat display was to look like. Now I do! And agreed, a treat to see this owl up close and personal. And what a meal you gave her!

What a great post. I sure hope the little guy's eye can be fixed and it can be released. Thanks for the video.

I love when you post videos. Mostly because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and like I'm back "home," but also because my kids get to experience a part of what I did for years. It makes me all sentimental and teary-eyed and such.

I confess looking for a response such as described by "Mollie". Also sounded ter me like you might order yourself some thicker gloves, no? Will R.

Lucky little owl to find his way into your care, even if it was just for a short while before rehab. I wonder what an owl thinks when a human brings it strips of chicken breast. "Mmmm, humans are so nice. I think I'll stay here and eat chicken all day."

The owl seems to listen to your voice,,,wonder what he is thinking. Glad your showed him that humans can be kind.

I so enjoy when you share your experiences with us. I hope this little owl can return to the wild soon, and I am so glad he had the pleasure of being cared for by you along the way. If he cannot be released will he be sheltered at the Center?

Posted by Darlene Shamblin December 5, 2013 at 10:56 AM

I'm still shakin' in my boots after that scare!!

Well, it WOULD be scary except that I've seen Kramer do that same facial expression on Seinfeld!
Anyway, cool experience...

Oh, how I love the Screech Owls! We have a lot of them at The Wildlife Center of Virginia right now - they seem to smack into cars with some regularity. WCV releases one-eyed owls fairly often. I believe their theory is that owls hunt by hearing more than sight and can do fine with one eye. What they won't release is an owl that - because of a broken wing or some such - can no longer fly silently.

oh oh oh. Love this. Love that I know a person who is so giving and talented and there for her feathered friends in a pinch.

Like you had nothing else on your to do list, this week...

You are the best, JZ.


Posted by KH Macomber December 6, 2013 at 6:47 AM

Great story or hopefully so.

On your stories behalf, and because of this I made a donation to this Center.

God bless..

Any snowy siteings in SE OH ?
I keep liking for "white bags" in field!

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