Saturday, September 7, 2013

Raising Baby Barn Owls for Education

Have you ever wondered how we get our education birds so accustomed to all the crowds and hub-bub they encounter at our shows?  The ideal situation is to be able to raise them from the time they are babies.  The World Bird Sanctuary Staff raised one baby Barn Owl for educational purposes in 2012.
 Socializing a young Barn Owl involved many people
In this instance every Nature Center Staff member took turns taking the fast growing baby home at night.  We exposed the young Barn Owl to new scenarios each night so that it would get habituated to different people, sounds and locations. The idea is to have a bird that is unafraid of new situations, sights and sounds.  This baby Barn Owl will hopefully help us present Free-Flying programs for the next 20 years.  Tyto was the name of our Barn Owl that lived the longest at 20 years.

Last year’s baby was named Minerva, in honor of Staff member Trina Whitener's Aunt Minerva. Trina often regales the staff with very interesting stories from her childhood about her Aunt Minerva.  Minerva and her love of the outdoors is totally evident in Trina today. Trina is an expert Naturalist in part because of all the love and attention that Aunt Minerva gave her when she was a youngster.  Aunt Minerva spent a lot of time outside with Trina teaching and sharing her love of nature and all the creatures.

My mom found that confining a curious baby Barn Owl was not so easy

Anyway, back to the Barn Owl in the pictures. Minerva hatched in February 2012.  The pictures show the night that Minerva was at my Mom's house.  You can see Minerva on my Mom, Monica Zeloski's, kitchen floor.  We tried to keep Minerva in the kitchen so that when she went to the bathroom, it would be on the linoleum, and easy to wipe up.
However, Minerva had other ideas.  She was very curious and wanted to be in the family room where the rest of us were watching TV.  Minerva found every way she could to get through or around the barrier we had erected to keep her in the kitchen. 

Minerva was a unique house guest

My Mom was able to enjoy the unique experience of having a growing baby Barn Owl for a houseguest!  One thing that surprised my Mom was how much the Barn Owl was molting or losing it's downy feathers--like dandelion fuzz, everywhere.  We swept and mopped but the fluff kept magically appearing for a couple of days afterwards. It was amazing how much that bird molted in one evening.
 Minerva as she looks today
Minerva had a great first flying season and is now on vacation. She went to numerous schools, churches and outdoor events. All of our staff must be complimented on how well Minerva was trained once we began taking care of her.

A special thanks goes to Roger Wallace who is our Propagation Coordinator. Roger spent countless hours feeding Minerva before she was old enough to be turned over to our Education staff.  Nicely done Roger.

Story and photos by Michael Zeloski, World Bird Sanctuary Director of Education

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