Alton officers give a hoot, rescue baby owl
Article Date: 2010-04-24 Source: http://www.bnd.com
Alton, Illinois, U.S.A. - An irate mother barred owl attacked a dog in its yard Wednesday, apparently
because she thought it was threateningly close to her vulnerable, fluffy baby on the ground below.
The dog reportedly did not suffer any injuries, with an unidentified person
calling Alton Animal Control about the unharmed owlet at risk.
"The mother and the sibling, who was bigger than the bird on the ground, were up
in a tree," said Steve Bosaw, animal control officer. "We saw the mother fly off on the side of the house" in the 900 block of Main Street, which helped the two city officers locate the owlet.
It was about 40 feet from the tree on which its mother and sibling had perched.
"A neighbor said it had been there for awhile," Bosaw said, perhaps since
Tuesday. "It was probably 8 to 10 inches tall, and it still had its fluffy
One of the animal control officers called Treehouse Wildlife Center Inc. in
Brighton, seeking advice on what to do with the owlet. The officer spoke to
Treehouse's clinic supervisor, Pam Lippert.
"She said if it looks like it is in danger, bring it to them," Bosaw said about
Wearing protective gloves, fellow animal control officer Brad Northway picked up
the little owlet and took it to safety inside the city truck.
"It was pretty easy-going, but it started 'clicking,' which is a warning," Bosaw
said. "Once it was in the truck, it started screeching a little bit. We were
hoping the mother would not attack us."
The men said city records show the resident of the house had a pit bull terrier.
The man was not at home when they arrived to rescue the bird, so they could not
verify whether it was the same dog that the mother owl "buzzed" from above.
The men could hear the dog barking inside the house.
The men delivered the owlet to the Treehouse center, where it joined five others
of about the same age in a cage with a "foster parent" owl.
"The foster parent has a bad eye or a bad wing, and it takes over and feeds the
young birds, so they have a role model and it won't imprint on us," Lippert
She said staff would put the owlet in a flight cage, so it can learn to fly and
hunt live prey, such as mice, in the dark. Lippert said the bird probably would
be ready for release in mid-summer, but it will not be set free in the busy Main
Lippert estimated the bird is about 6 weeks old, too young for someone to
determine its gender.
She said an owl doesn't lay all of her eggs on the same day, so the bird on the
ground likely was younger than its larger sibling perched on the tree limb.
Mature barred owls, sometimes called "hoot" owls, range in size from 16 to 25
inches tall, and are gray and brown with horizontal "bars" on the chest and
vertical "bars" on the belly. As with other owls, they are primarily nocturnal
and eat a variety of small mammals, insects and other birds.
They prefer living in woodlands near water and will defend a nest aggressively.
"There seems to be a large number of barred owls in Alton; they like the big
trees," Lippert said.
Normally, bird experts do not recommend picking up a baby bird from the ground,
because its mother likely is nearby to care for her offspring.
In this instance, Lippert said the dog posed a danger to the owlet; sometimes,
people will find baby birds near busy roads or other risks, and they need
Bosaw said this is only the second time he and Northway have saved an owl in
"The other time, it was at Gordon Moore Park; it was caught in a soccer net," he
They took that bird to Treehouse, where it regained its strength, and the men
eventually retrieved it and released it in the park.
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2006-11-12 - Who, you say? Visiting owls are a hoot for the youngsters by Nick Lucchesi - Alton, Illinois, U.S.A.
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