Look what dropped in our yard: a baby Great Horned Owl. Actually there’s two of them back there. Their parents set up housekeeping several months ago, so we weren’t surprised with the outcome of their union. What did surprise us was finding two of their babies–unable to fly–hunkered down in our back yard.
Since we’ve become attached to these impressive hunters, panic ensued. A call to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center was necessary. A very nice fellow and owl expert eased my anxiety. This is what I found out:
1) Baby owls are restless this time of year, trying to fly and falling out of their nests.
2) If they have fallen in a safe place, they’ll be fine. If they fall in, say, a dog park or next to a street, you can pick them up and put them on a nearby tree limb. This provoked the question, "It’s okay to pick them up? Won’t my scent transfer to the birds?"
"No," said the Owl Man. "That is a lie your mother told you so you wouldn’t pick up baby birds. Birds have a notoriously bad sense of smell. Their parents won’t shun them."
He went on to suggest that if I did pick it up to wear a pair of leather gloves. Not because of the scent thing, but because of their significantly developed talons.
3) The parents are watching them, so don’t get too close to them at dusk, dawn or the hours between. Last night (between 9 and 9:30 pm) we watched feeding time. Yummy.
4) After a few days, the babies will have developed enough to fly. I just hope they come back. Our yard will always have a reserved spot for these guys.
Adult Great Horned Owl (Picture courtesy of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center)