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Young and homeless

Article Date: 2005-04-05   Source:   Comments: 1

By John Trumbo

Kennewick, Washington, U.S.A. - Five baby barn owls, still covered in fuzz, can thank a couple of human neighbors for rescuing them Monday from a wind damaged nest in east Kennewick.

The owl's mother apparently abandoned the nest sometime after Friday when a large branch that concealed the birds' hiding place broke away, exposing the chicks to sun, wind and rain.

''They were getting to the point of not being with it,'' said Susie Greer, who lives across the street from the owl's nest on East 10th Ave.

Greer's neighbor, Niki Delahunt, saw what she thought were large mushrooms sprouting from a hollow in the large tree in her yard.

But a closer look revealed that the mushrooms were moving and that they were a clutch of baby owls, the largest about 6 inches tall and the smallest a mere 2 inches.

With a long ladder and help from Delahunt's son, Greer plucked the chicks from their water-soaked nest about 13 feet up, using gloves and a blanket as a carryall.

Greer said the owls didn't give much of a fight, but after being in the blanket and in the warmth of the car they "got real frisky."

She delivered the chicks to the Animal Hospital in Pasco, where Kristina Ripplinger, a veterinary technician and wildlife rehabilitator, will care for them until the owls gain weight, strength and flight feathers.

"This is by far the largest clutch I've had," said Ripplinger of Kennewick. Last year, the hospital took in ducklings and baby squirrels found abandoned in the Tri-Cities.

The baby birds will be fed a milk formula until they can handle chopped mice, heart and liver, she said.

"It will take a couple of months' worth of work. It is definitely not a fly-by-night thing," Ripplinger said.

She said the chicks' mother may have abandoned the nest because of the storm damage or may have been hit by a car.

She recommends people not disturb what may appear to be an abandoned nest for 24 to 48 hours, just in case the parent bird is away on a long hunt or has been delayed in returning.

Baby barn owls are not defenseless, she said, and can seriously hurt people who try to handle them.

"These guys have very strong talons that are very sharp, even though they are probably under 1 month old," Ripplinger said. When full grown, the owls will weigh up to 5 pounds and stand more than a foot tall.

The smallest chick, however, may never catch up in size if it survives. Rather than being released to the wild with its siblings, that bird could remain captive, becoming an "education bird" for classrooms, Ripplinger said.

Ripplinger said while Greer handled the situation properly by waiting the correct amount of time, others facing a similar situation should consult with a state Fish and Wildlife agent or rehabilitator before trying to handle or rescue a wild animal.

Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from and placed here for comment. is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.

Related Articles:
2009-05-21 - Burrowing owl experts gather in Mid-Columbia by John Trumbo - Umatilla, Oregon, U.S.A.
2009-05-04 - Abandoned owls have home near Benton City by John Trumbo - Benton City, Washington, U.S.A.
2005-08-15 - Burrowing owls face uncertain future by Anna King - Kennewick, Washington, U.S.A.
2004-07-26 - Scientists dig for answers about owls by Anna King - Kennewick, Washington, U.S.A.
2004-02-25 - Burrowing Owls Returning to Washington - Kennewick, Washington, U.S.A.

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On 2008-02-29, Kristina Ripplinger from Washington wrote: "Any people reading this article please note..I was slightly misquoted :) You do not feed juvenile owls "milk" I had said an "protein" formula...sorry for any confusion."

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