Saturday, May 26, 2012

That Other Guy Chronicles: Silo

My name is Neal Cowan, and this is my first blog post for the World Bird Sanctuary.

Since this is my first article I thought it fitting to talk about the love of my life; a baby Barn Owl named Silo and how she brought me around to these exceptional animals. First, however, let us start at the beginning…before I knew anything about birds…. before I ever intended to work with animals.

I got my degree in English with the intention of teaching.  Before college I worked primarily in construction: managing people, computers or heavy machinery.  I always enjoyed working with people--animals never fit in the equation.  When I initially applied for the internship at World Bird Sanctuary, it was more out of curiosity and the desire to try something new than anything else.  So you can imagine my bewilderment when, following my internship, I was offered a summer job here. Never would I have considered myself an “animal person.”

My experience as an intern was amazing.  I learned so much, met some interesting people and had a blast, though I never would have expected it to lead to an actual job. At first I wondered how I would fit in this new archetype. It is one thing to be an intern, but to be an actual employee? Now that is a whole new ballpark. I was not sure if I had enough interest in these animals to warrant the responsibility: then I met Silo.
 These baby Barn Owls are 14 days old...I thought they were baby dragon look-alikes
On February 13th, weighing in at no more than a few grams, a beautiful baby girl was born (or rather: hatched).  A baby Barn Owl is an interesting sort.  My first impression was that I was looking at a baby dragon.  When they first hatch, before they get their feathers, they are so cute and look nothing like a Barn Owl…in my humble opinion anyway.  Then I (along with the sole member of the Propagation Department) began looking after little number 42 (last 2 numbers of its U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band), Silo.  I was hesitant at first, but the first time she crawled into my lap and looked up at me, I was lost.
 By approximately 21 days Silo began to look somewhat less dragon-like, but still not what I thought of as a Barn Owl look-alike
In the Missouri wild, especially eastern and northeastern Missouri, these amazing animals are facing a bleak future as they suffer from habitat loss and secondary poisoning.  Our Propagation Department here at the World Bird Sanctuary is hard at work getting their numbers back up, but their efforts alone will not be enough.  If you or someone you know uses pesticides for mice, be aware that one poisoned mouse can kill an entire family of Barn Owls.  Knowledge of these issues is the greatest chance these creatures have, which is where Silo is stepping up to help her kind.
 It's hard to believe that in the short space of 65 days the dragon look-alike pictured above will morph into a beautiful bird like our Goblin, pictured here
Young Silo is being well groomed for her future as a member of the zoo show team, where, one day she will venture out into the world to teach young and old alike about her amazing species and what we can all do to safeguard their survival in the wild.

Submitted by Neal Cowan, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist


Monteen said...

AWESOME post. We've hooked another one! Woot!

Anna said...

I actually got to meet Silo and his owner. I adopted Minerva, Silo's sister!

Photog said...

@Anna - The person you met was probably Silo's trainer. Silo lives at the World Bird Sanctuary's Educational Training Center when he is not performing. Thanks for your support.