Owls who fell from nest in Batavia return to natural home
By Linda Girardi For The Beacon-News March 25, 2012 7:38PM
Ashley Flint, director of the Fox Valley Wildlife Center, places a baby owl into a bag that will be hoisted into a tree to deliver the bird and its sibling to their new nest near Pam Weber's home in Batavia. The pair recently fell from the tree and have been cared for at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 27, 2012 8:14AM
The Fox Valley Wildlife Center received a desperate call about two great horned owlets which tumbled some 30 to 40 feet from their nest to the base of a white pine on a residence in rural Batavia.
“They had a thin layer of white down and were the size of tennis balls,” said Ashley Flint, director of the nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation hospital located within the Elburn Forest Preserve.
On Sunday, wildlife rehabilitators returned the young owls to very tree and fastened a sturdier, naturally-made basket filled with soft ground cover about 40-feet into the tree where the original nest was.
The pair were hoisted up the tree in a canvass bag and placed inside their new home.
The rehabbers are confident mom and dad are close by and will resume their parental duties, even though their young have been gone for a week.
Flint said the adult owls have been living in the wooded area for a year and by nature are territorial. “We believe the adult owls are in the area,” Flint said. “Owls have immaculate hearing and will hear the babies cry tonight.”
“The babies need to live in their natural environment and learn how to be owls — it’s the best thing for them,” Flint added.
Pamela and Bill Weber were clearing brush from their wooded lot on March 17 when the normal chorus of chirping birds was disrupted by the sound of a sudden thump to the ground.
“We have enjoyed hearing the adult owls, but around January the pitch became frenetic,” Pamela Weber said, referencing the “duetting” between adult owls as they attract a mate in December and January. Weber said she was astounded by how much the birds have grown and that their eye color turned amber.
Weber said in a panic, she rushed the first owlet to a veterinarian hospital. But when her husband noticed the next day a second owlet had fallen, she enlisted the help of the Fox Valley Wildlife Center.
The wildlife rehabilitation center, which cares for orphaned and sick animals until they are ready to be released back into their natural habitat, opened in 2000.
During a week stay in rehab, the owlets were placed side-by-side in a plastic butter tub inside an incubator and hand fed chicken livers every two hours.
Flint would wear a safari style hat with mesh covering her face to prevent human imprinting, which would reduce their chances of surviving in the wild.
The baby owls, which resemble puffy balls of fluff, are about two weeks old and far from being ready to fledge or venture away from home, which occurs in 6-8 weeks.
Flint said the owlets were healthy, active and their tummies are smooth which means they are hydrated — the owlets have grown to the size and weight of a softball since the drama of falling out of their nest.
Flint said great horned owls are notorious for having their babies in old nests of other birds or squirrels that have lost their durability, which increases the chances of owlets toppling to the ground.
Flint said she is optimistic the parents will return to taking care of their young ones. “If there are no signs the parents are here, we will return and raise them until they can be released.”
Flint said Kane County has a healthy population of the great horned owls.
Naturalist Ryan DePauw is the local wildlife rehab hospital’s volunteer resident tree climber specifically trained to scale trees and return infant birds to their nests.
“We did not see signs of the parents but that is typical for great horned owls — they stay well camouflaged during the day — we hope to see evidence of them over the next day.”
“We suspect the adults are in the area — we have a lot of good hope for their young,” DePauw said.