It has been a Barred Owl kind of week at Raptor Education Group, Inc. (REGI)
Most of the birds admitted the past week have been Barred Owls. We also released six Barred Owls on Sunday as well.
This is the time of year wildlife rehabilitators call “the dying time”. It is when wild birds that have had a hard time finding enough prey throughout the winter are unable to maintain themselves and begin to fail. They are found starving in fields, near barns, and along roadsides. It is also a time when Barred Owls are getting serious about courtship, and they aren't as focused on things around them. Many are hit by vehicles. Love is in the air and hormones are dancing in their heads.
We have five critical-care Barred Owls in the clinic and two others that were upgraded to transitional care. All are improving. I have a wonderful story about one of these owls written by the woman who found it. I will make a separate post of that soon, as it is a genuinely beautiful story which should stand alone.
Releasing Barred Owls is a delicate balance of patient conditioning, science, and knowledge of the release site. As with other species, understanding this bird’s natural history is a must. Adult Barred Owls generally do best when released in the same area where they were found. They do not migrate and rarely move very far from where they nest. Releasing young owls not yet at breeding age back into the same places they were found is not as critical, because they disperse naturally from their nest site and find their own territory. However, even then we must take into consideration other owls that might live in the area, such as Great-horned Owls that nest earlier and might see the Barred Owls as prey.
Releases are done in the evening, as Barred Owls are nocturnal. Their dark eyes are used for gathering light and not as useful in the bright daylight. Another problem is that crows mob them if they are released while the crows are still awake. Because of that, you will not see the typical release photos you are used to seeing with eagles and diurnal species.
Enjoy the photos of the pre-release physical exams. Notice that even though the birds are all Barred Owls, their faces are all different. Maybe it is because we work with them daily that we notice the differences so much more. I will be interested to see if you, our readers, notice these differences as well. The colored bands you see are all temporary REGI bands and are removed before release.
Five more Barred Owls are ready to release. They will likely go this week if we can complete the logistics of arranging travel to their specific release sites. Just an hour ago we admitted another Barred Owl. This patient was hit by a car. Late last night a Great-horned Owl starvation case was admitted. It looks like it will be another owl kind of week.