Owl be seeing you: Pair of Great Horned birds released to the wild
Article Date: 2010-10-23 Source: http://www.fosters.com
By Roni Reino
Kittery, Maine, U.S.A. - With a gentle push and a flutter of wings, two Great Horned Owls took their first flight into the wild on their own after months of rehabilitation.
Earlier this year, the two juvenile owls were given to The Center for Wildlife
after falling out of their nests and suffering from severe injuries and signs of trama. They were only little white puffballs when the showed up and volunteers and staff said they are proud of the progress of the almost 6-month-old birds.
"We don't like to take birds from the wild," said education and outreach
director Kristen Lamb, adding the less attached humans become attached to the
birds, the better.
The owls, with their gray faces and white patched feathers, have been in
rehabilitation at the Center since the spring and this past week were strong
enough to move on. On Thursday each was set free at the Kittery Land Trust's
Cutts parcel — a crowd of about 20 took pictures, awed of their beauty just
before the release.
"They have to learn what it is to be an owl," said Development Director Laura
Dehler of the rehabilitation process. "If an owl hears too much speech, it can
be hard for them to move on."
Although the winter will quickly be upon the Maine woods, Dehler said she is
sure the owls have had enough rodent hunting training to find food and survive
the winter. Each spent the summer outside with the Center's permanent foster
Great Horned Owl, Galileo, in a 100-foot tall cage learning to hunt rodents and
land quietly on leaves.
"There is always that fine line whether we should decide to keep them through
the winter or let them go," she said. "But we have to trust they have the
instinct and that we have done everything we can do."
Each animal has been banded with a small metal bracelet and weighed for research
purposes, but the center said it does not know the sex of each owl, but guesses
they are female. Collected information was recorded in partner with Biodiversity
Research Institute. Each bird weighs about 1,500 grams, or about 4 pounds and
are large for their breed, according to the center.
"Due to their size, we believe they are both female," said Karen McElmurry of
the center. However, since the center did not take blood samples for DNA testing
and has no other way to determine the sex, they are only guessing.
The owls were released on a 22-acre lot of upland forest and wetland, which was
given to the Trust in the 1980s by John Oliver Cutts.
"It's very rewarding to get them to this point where they are so beautiful and
so strong," McElmurry said. "Their instincts are going to kick in and they know
what they need to do."
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