Barns Owls of Northern Indiana - Rescue & Return Home

Barns Owl Rescued

August 4, 2016

Late Wednesday evening; a Soarin’ Hawk volunteer received a message from the local DNR C.O. informing us of a “problem” with a Barn Owl family in a farmer’s silo. It came as quite the surprise! Barn Owls are very rare in northern Indiana. On average only 10-15 nests are discovered annually; most of which are located in the lower half of the state.

The following morning she drove out to the farm and was immediately greeted by the family. All work came to a complete halt and they trooped through the stock pens and shed to the base of a 45 foot tall silo.

Inside the bottom and huddled against a wall, were three Barn Owl fledglings. They had fallen from their roost at the top of the silo.

A fourth bird, and probably the smallest, had died.  One of our volunteers climbed down into the silo to evaluate their condition. They were all were weak and emaciated. After giving each bird a short drink of water, they were placed in individual carriers.

She then proceeded to climb to the top of the silo. In an effort to evaluate the condition and safety of the nest, a fifth fledgling was discovered. The bird was roosting inside an auger discharge chute across from an access port 15 feet away. It appeared healthy. The auger port was a perfect place for laying eggs but it was too small for five fledglings. After successfully appraising the situation, she discussed plans with the farmer about placing a nest below the roost and possibly adding a “real” nesting box for the future. Biologist John Castrale from the DNR was later contacted to help develop these plans.

She took the three owls to Dr. Funnell, where they were rehydrated with subcutaneous injections of Ringers solution. Then we tube fed them a delicious slurry of nutrients. Overnight, the weakest baby didn’t survive but the other two continue to recover; feasting on chicken breast and noisily attacking anyone that approach

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Barn Owls - Return Home

September 15, 2016

While the two remaining Barn Owl fledglings received TLC from Doctor Pat, plans were made for their return home. A floor had to be installed inside the top of the silo to prevent the babies from falling. It was proposed that a tarp be suspended about a foot below the top edge of the silo.  A small mesh tarp, similar to those used to protect gardens, would be hauled into place with ropes and stretched with bungee cords. To insure that the owlets would not get their toes caught, a trial run was made at ground level. Six volunteers suspended the tarp and the female owl was place on top. The baby danced daintily across the surface with no problems.

Bob delivered the tarp, ropes and bungees to the farmer and explained what needed to be done.  But the farmer was smarter than Bob and produced a better plan. He had a local blacksmith build an iron ring that was ½ foot narrower than the inside of the silo. The farmer and his sons stretched the tarp over the ring, then attached the floor by ropes and bungees to the top of the silo so that it hung one foot below the dome.

After eight days, fattened and strengthened, the fledglings were ready to return to their roost.  Doctor Pat, Gary, Sandy and Bob collected the birds and went to meet the farmer and his family.  The birds were placed in a knap sack. While Gary and one son climbed the outside of the silo, Sandy started up the inside access with a pack full of owls.  Gary positioned himself with his camera in the access at the top of the silo. Sandy carefully placed the pack on the new floor and released the female. The female looked around, stretched her wings and flew toward the opening. After briefly perching on Gary’s head, she flew up and headed toward a copse of trees about 200 yards away. She then made a left turn and disappeared into the greenery.  Meanwhile, the younger male remained on the new floor. 

Gary and Sandy, with the help of the two sons, slowly and cautiously made their way down to terra firma.  There were hi-fives all the way around, success!!  Following this, there was a tour of the farm and a then a celebratory stop at the Dairy Queen.

A week later, the farmer reported that two of the birds were still using the roost and the whole family was hunting around the house. As of today (9/13) the owls are still occupying the silo and actively working the property.

Later this fall, we plan to build and install a nesting box at the top of the silo.