Survival prospects of tawny owls halved
Article Date: 2009-06-09 Source: http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk
Sculthorpe, Fakenham, Scotland, U.K. - Well-meaning wildlife fans have unwittingly halved the survival prospects of
tawny owl chicks by mistaking them for orphans, conservationists warned last
Five of the downy chicks were ''rescued'' and brought to Sculthorpe Moor Nature
Reserve after being discovered grounded, wide-eyed and calling out for food.
But officers at the Hawk and Owl Trust said the behaviour was a natural part of
the species' fledging process and the young owls now faced a battle to survive
after being taken away from their parents.
The plea was echoed by Springwatch presenter Chris Packham, who has been filming
for the BBC series at the reserve, near Fakenham.
He said: ''What we really want here is a call to inaction. These birds are
undeniably cute, with those big eyes, and you can see why people pick them up.
''But it is best left on its own. If you find one on the floor, it has not
fallen to its doom and it will be tended by its parents.
''People must resist the temptation to step in even if they think they are doing
the birds a favour. The bottom line is that these birds would have a much better
chance if left in the wild.''
Tawny owls leave their nests when they are only a month old - and several weeks
before they are fully feathered. But despite their apparent vulnerability, they
will ''squeak'' to attract their parents when they return from night-time
hunting trips, and are able to climb trees using their talons and beaks.
Nigel Middleton, conservation officer for the Hawk and Owl Trust, said the
reserve was fielding eight enquiries a week from people who had found the
distinctive mottled brown birds on the ground.
''Most of the time we are able to advise people to leave them where they are,''
he said. ''By taking them away from their parents, the chance of the bird
surviving is cut by half.
''Unless they are in immediate danger from dogs or by being on a road or
footpath, our message is simply to leave them alone.''
Although the Hawk and Owl Trust is not a rehabilitation charity, the five tawny
owls have been re-homed in a nesting box and are being fed with white mice until
they are ready to leave.
The tawny owls are set to feature on Springwatch this week, which is screened at
8pm on BBC2 from Monday to Thursday.
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