Great Horned Owlet #17-0363

Admission Date: 
April 4, 2017
Release Date: 
October 17, 2017
Location of Rescue: 
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Unable to be renested
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On March 29, a Great Horned owlet was found in Mechanicsville on the ground -- the owlet was below a nest that was 100 feet up in the tree. The rescuer attempted to re-nest the owl, but the nest was too high to easily reach. The rescuer also tried to make a secondary nest for the owlet (in hopes that the parents would find the baby and continue to care for it), but the effort proved unsuccessful. The bird was then brought to a rehabilitator, who transferred the owlet to the Center.

Upon examination by the Center's veterinary team, owlet #17-0363 was bright, alert, and feisty. The physical exam did not reveal any injuries, although the bird was very thin. Radiographs showed food within its gastrointestinal tract, indicating the owlet had been eating.

Overall, the owlet appeared to be healthy  and was transferred to the rehabilitation team for continued care. On April 10, the rehabilitation staff introduced the owlet to the Center's surrogate Great Horned Owl, Papa G’Ho. Papa G’Ho will teach the baby the necessary skills and behaviors to successfully grow up and be released.  The owlet will spend days in the pen with Papa and nights inside the Center until it acclimates; the owlet will eventually stay with Papa full time in an outdoor enclosure.

Owlet #17-0363 is Papa G’Ho’s first owlet this season!

Your donation provides for the care of this owlet, as well as many other orphaned animals at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Papa G’Ho is also available for sponsorship through our Caring for Critters program!


October 18, 2017

Great Horned Owl #17-0363 was released on the evening of October 17 at James Madison’s Montpelier, in front of a crowd of about 75 people. Dr. Ernesto, the Center’s hospital director, performed the release honors; the owl flew off over a field and disappeared into the trees. Within a few minutes, a Red-tailed Hawk was seen – and heard! – reacting to the presence of the newest resident of the woods.




October 16, 2017

Great Horned Owl #17-0363 has been cleared for release by the veterinary team; the owlet will be released at James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange County on Tuesday, October 17 at 6:15 p.m. The release is open to the public; those attending are asked to RSVP to Those planning on attending the release should enter through the main gate on Route 20 [Constitution Highway] and follow signs to the Visitor Center.

October 7, 2017

All three young Great Horned Owls have been flying very well – each is strong in flight, and also is silent, which is an important requirement for owl releases. On October 3, Papa G’Ho officially finished his surrogate duties for the year, and was moved to a C-pen enclosure; each of the young owls was moved to separate flight pens for mouse school practice and additional exercise. Rehabilitation intern Shannon said that the live-prey testing is off to a great start; the owls have passed three nights so far, and should finish the rest of their testing this weekend.

After the owls pass mouse school, they’ll each have blood drawn for a pre-release health check. If all goes well, the owls should be able to be released within the next two weeks.

September 26, 2017

The Great Horned Owl family – Papa G’Ho and his three young foster owlets – has been doing well these past few weeks. On September 9, the family was moved to flight pen A2, so that the young owls could have more room as they practice flying.

Wildlife rehabilitator Brie reports that all three birds are flying well – they are silent in flight, and are gaining more stamina. They are currently each flying about five to 10 passes during each exercise session, and will increase the number of passes in the coming weeks. The owlets have been practicing “mouse school” once a week during the summer so that they can watch Papa and his hunting skills, and so they have a chance to practice their own skills. As the owls get closer to release, each will need to pass an official five-day course of mouse school, to prove that each can successfully catch its own food.


June 22, 2017

Great Horned Owlets #17-0363, #17-0885, and #17-1135 are doing well; they are flying and eating consistently on their own.

As of June 21, Papa G'Ho and his three owlets are housed together in one of the outdoor flight pens. When an appropriate, larger enclosure becomes available (likely one of the "A-pens"), the rehabilitation staff will move the four birds; the larger space will give the growing family more room and space for the young birds to practice flying.

The family will remain together until the owlets are eventually separated for individual live-prey testing in preparation for a fall release.

April 24, 2017

Owlet #17-0363 has been gaining weight and adjusting well to life with Papa G’Ho. Papa G'Ho is teaching the owl appropriate behaviors towards humans; when humans approach, the owlets expresses dissatisfaction with snaps and hisses - just like Papa.

The bird has been out with Papa during the day, exploring the enclosure and hopping from perch to perch; at night, the owlet is in its crate where it's been offered food without any added distractions. The young bird is not eating much of the mid-day meal now and is mostly eating everything at night, which is to be expected because owls are nocturnal.

On April 20, owlet #17-0363 weighed 1.28 kilograms, meaning the bird gained 80 grams since the last weigh-in; this weight gain means the owlet can stay out of the crate at night, as well as during the day. In two weeks, the owlet will start getting regular feet and feather checks from the veterinary team.

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