top left top right
The Owl Pages
Google+
Follow Me on Pinterest

Owl 'foster parents' adopt displaced chicks, watch out for babies during nesting season

Article Date: 2009-04-30   Source: http://www.fortcollinsnow.com   Comments: 0

By Dan England

Fort Collins, Colorado, U.S.A. - A pair of great-horned owls are among the so-called ''education birds'' that live in the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program. For food and shelter, it's the permanently injured birds' job to help educate students (and adults) about raptors by making public appearances.

But starting around this time until late August - prime nesting season for many raptors - it's the pair's job to act as foster parents.

Gail Kratz, medical director for the raptor program in Fort Collins, hopes the owls aren't as busy as they were last year.

Among the nasty storms that blew apart nests and displaced baby owls, including last May's tornado, unknowing tree trimmers cut down branches that had nests in them. It's a problem that occurs about a half-dozen times a year during the raptors' breeding season, and though that doesn't seem like much, that could mean the center is caring for 18 babies or more because of tree trimmers' mistakes.

The program's already had its first shattered nest of the year, an owl's home inside a Cottonwood branch cavity on Weld County Road 31 between Weld 76 and 78. The branches were hanging over Weld 31, and Weld County hired a contractor to sheer them away.

Unfortunately cavity nests can be hard to spot - it's not like they're huge piles of twigs and sticks like other bird nests - and the contractor didn't make the connection after spotting the baby owls' parents hanging around nearby.

The contractor felt terrible about it - he even wrapped a jacket around the babies to protect them - but the branch fell as far as 30 feet and landed right on the road, and two of the three babies were killed.

The third survived, however, and that's the happy ending. The chick was probably 4 weeks old at the time, and so Kratz treated it like the infants that go through the program. She brought it through the ''critical care'' unit and after assessing that it was OK, she introduced it to ''Mama Owl,'' a hand puppet that she could put on a post.

''If they're young enough, they're comforted by it,'' Kratz said. ''Mama Owl has raised a lot of babies.''

It didn't get much beyond that point for the third chick, as a couple weeks ago, soon after the accident, the program ''re-nested'' the baby and another owl chick who fell out of its nest onto a loading dock and somehow survived the fall. They used a wicker basket and materials from the old nesting site. Wicker baskets resemble old nests and are biodegradable, and since owls rarely make their own, they're not exactly picky about where they stay.

Great horned owls are great parents, Kratz said, and will take in other chicks as long as they match in age (so one chick doesn't eat another).

''They technically don't even know it's not their baby,'' she said. ''I've never had it not work. Once the chick makes food noises, the instinct is so strong that for the most part it's very successful.''

The problem with that is the babies are hard to raise because of the time their parents invest in them. Usually chicks are born in late February and won't leave the nest until late September. And because owls are great providers, the babies can eat up to eight mice a day by the time they leave the raptor program. That's a strain on what Kratz calls the program's ''rodent resource.''

They can also be a strain on the program's foster parents. In just their first year of foster parenting, the two owls raised 15 babies last year, and at one point they raised nine at once. And you thought Jon and Kate were busy because of their ''plus 8.''

''They really did a great job,'' Kratz said. ''I just hope we don't have to use them as much this year.''

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

Related Articles:
2009-06-25 - Spotted Owls Face Genetic Bottleneck by Emily Sohn - Fort Collins, Colorado, U.S.A.
2006-03-24 - Baby owls accidentally evicted from cut-down trees by Kevin Darst - Fort Collins, Colorado, U.S.A.
2004-06-24 - Injured owl takes flight after surgery by Erin Cox - Fort Collins, Colorado, U.S.A.

< Previous News article   |   Next News Article >

Comments


Comment on the above News article.

Your Name (Required)
Where are you from? (Optional)
E-mail Address (Optional)
Comments (Required)
As OwlPages.com is not responsible for this article, we are not able to answer any questions relating to it.


 
bottom left bottom right
top left top right
bottom left bottom right