Thursday, February 28, 2008

Education birds

Conservationists tend to think in numbers: populations, nesting sites, acres of habitat. It is a necessary way of seeing, one that allows us to chart and track the health of any given species or region. Education and volunteer programs allow us to see what is at stake in a different way. Individual birds can leave an impression on visitors for years to come. They teach us that the hungry urgency of the handfed chick corresponds to the urgency of owls in the wild as they struggle to live alongside us.

Robert Frost said, “We love the things we love for what they are.” We love raptors for their beauty and, more importantly, their scarcity. It is the condition of endangerment to demand that we love hardest those things we might lose.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sleepy little barn owl

This is the last of Athena's and Sonar's chicks, hatched on the 20th of February. The hand raised chicks will be sent to education programs around the country, while Athena and Sonar raise the others for release.

The chicks are carefully monitored for health and weight and kept in professional brooders until they are able to thermo-regulate. At this stage, they are fed at regular intervals four times daily.

As you can see, this little owl would much prefer a nap!

P.S. Joy's finger was injured by Joy and not by a bird!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Meanwhile, back at the nest....

Here you see Athena hard at work caring for her young. Brooding Five chicks is tough work!

Barn owls start incubating as soon as the first egg is laid, so the oldest chick is two weeks older (and considerably bigger) than the youngest chick. Raptor chicks can't thermo-regulate, so Athena has to brood them to keep them warm. As they get older and get more down, they need less brooding.

The chicks being raised in the nest box will be released here in Missouri. In the midwest, barn owls are rare. The parents (Athena and Sonar) are both unreleasable rehab birds. Most of the babies we raise are released. A smaller number are raised for breeding or education.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

News from the nest box!

In January our barn owl Athena and Sonar, her mate, began nesting. As of today six of their eight fertile eggs have hatched. Five of the babies remain with Athena in her nest box.

The bird in this video is three days old and being hand-raised for education purposes. The baby is eating lean rat meat, with some vitamin water, and calcium added.