04242017 Great Horned Owl nestling

Location of Rescue: 
local elementary school
Admission Date: 
Cause of Admission: 
Urban setting interferred with natural process of learning how to fly.
UPDATE: It's alive and much, much stronger!

April 24, 2017

Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control received a call from a concerned citizen about an owl that was found on the ground near a local elementary school.  She was picking up her son from the school and he showed his mom the owl that he had found.  Officer Coe arrived and picked up the owl, which turned out to be a baby Great Horned Owl, and delivered it to Dr. Funnell at the Pine Valley Veterinary Clinic.


Upon examination, this baby was fine, and given its size, was more than likely starting to fledge.  So we are going to try to find the nest and the mother owl.  Meanwhile, he was taken to one of our rehabbers for the night.  She reported that he ate 6 whole chicks that were placed in his crate so he was pretty hungry!


April 25, 2017


As it turned out, two of our volunteers just happened to be photographing owls at this elementary school.  One was dispatched the next morning to see if he could spot the mother owl.  He reported that she was in a stand of trees not far from where the youngster was picked up.  Now it was time to put a plan of action together.


We consulted with the Carolina Raptor Center, which handles frequent re-nesting, and after viewing our photos they said that this guy is well beyond re-nesting and to just set him up somewhere close with shelter, a bit of food, and mom will protect him.  In fact the volunteers that had been photographing the youngster reported that it had started to “branch” just a few days earlier.  Branching is when a young raptor starts to venture out from the nest and onto a branch to test their wings in preparation for fledging.


A team of volunteers assembled at the school to look for a suitable site in which to leave the little one.  We found that at the back of the school they have a little nature setting with bushes and a small pond. It just so happened that construction was occurring at the school, so this area was fenced off and would not be disturbed by anyone.







Now we needed to have the mom notice her baby so she would know exactly where we left him.  Unfortunately, the mom did not pay attention to the baby in the carrier, so we had to come up with another plan.  We had to keep the baby safe but still allow mom to see him. We decided to put temporary jesses and a leash on the baby and place it on the ground.  She immediately noticed and we continued around the school until we reached the site with her following from tree to tree along the way.  We then removed the leash and jesses and placed the baby on the ground inside the enclosure.  We provided additional chicks and brought a wooden box with a perch to serve as a shelter if it wanted it.  We could see mom in the tree so she knew exactly where her little one was and she was also hooting to it.  We secured the fence and left so that they could reunite.  The outcome couldn’t have been better.  There is nothing better than being with mom!!


April 26, 2017


The next day, two volunteers went to check on the baby, and saw it in a tree, about half way up, outside of the enclosure. The mother and father were also spotted in another tree, keeping a close eye on the baby.


April 27, 2017


What doesn't kill me makes me stronger!


My thoughts as I looked for the reintroduced Great Horned youngster Thursday morning after having severe thunderstorms with 60 mph winds last night, would I find a ball of feathers?   A thorough search of the tree from yesterday and the nearby area and trees, I was not having any luck in finding it. Then the familiar call of crows, nature’s locator, approximately 100 yards from yesterday’s location and in the top of the tallest oak tree, some 125 feet, was the youngster being harassed by a horde of crows. In the midst of the mêlée, a cooper’s hawk appeared. What was of concern in this ruckus was unclear to me. Was it defending a nest from the owls, the crows or just did it just want to be in on a good fight? And with all of this commotion, appears the adult owl who was sitting with all of its fine camouflage in the same tree after all. Having had enough, mother owl begins to chase all other species. With an adults support, the youngster now shows its flying skills and maneuvers from branch to branch with what appears to be incredible ease and skill.


It's alive and much, much stronger!   


Photo credits to:  Garry Harshbarger


How You Can Help

It's important to rescue, rehab, and share these birds with the community, and we thank our donors and volunteers for making it possible.