Great Horned Owlet #19-0148

Admission Date: 
March 13, 2019
Location of Rescue: 
Chesterfield County
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Fell out of nest
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On March 13, the Wildlife Center admitted hatchling Great Horned Owl #19-0148 from Chesterfield County. The owl was found by Chesterfield County Animal Control after the young bird fell from the nest and was then taken to a nearby veterinary hospital for initial assessment before being transferred to the Wildlife Center for continued care.

Upon arrival at the Center, the veterinary team examined the owlet, who appeared bright, alert, and responsive. Both the physical examination and radiographs were unremarkable; there were no signs of trauma or wounds, and the owlet appeared healthy. The veterinary team started the owlet on anti-inflammatories to treat any possible inflammation that could occur after the bird fell from the nest.

The Center prioritizes reuniting healthy, young animals with wild parents whenever possible. The staff was unsuccessful in locating an appropriate nest to renest owlet #19-0148; the owlet will need to remain in the care of the Wildlife Center until early fall, when the bird will be old enough for release.

Because the owlet is healthy, the Center’s rehabilitation staff will provide daily care of the owlet. The young bird is currently being fed twice a day and is eating on its own. When dropping off and picking up food, the rehabilitation team member remains quiet and wears a mask and hat to prevent the bird from inappropriately imprinting on humans.

It’s best for young raptor patients to be with an adult role model of the same species. The Center’s surrogate Great Horned Owl Papa G’Ho will serve as a surrogate parent for owlet #19-0148 during its stay at the Center. Papa G’Ho and owlet #19-0148 began introductions on March 20. The process begins with both owls being placed in crates facing each other, so that the owlet can visualize Papa G’Ho.

Once the young bird is old enough to thermoregulate [maintain its own body temperature], the bird will be acclimated to the outside by being moved outside during the day and back inside at night. Once acclimated, both Papa G’Ho and owlet #19-0148 will be moved to an outdoor flight pen where they will remain until the owlet is ready for release.

Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care to this injured owl -- and the 3,000 other patients that the Center will admit this year. Thank you! 


July 2, 2019

On July 1, wildlife rehab intern Kylee went into the A2 flight enclosure to feed and water the Great Horned Owl family – Papa G’Ho and his three owlets. Kylee was horrified to discover that one of the owlets, #19-0148, had been killed in the past day. Based on the remains, the rehabilitation staff believes that it was the work of a raccoon.

Wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey carefully checked the enclosure and found a space where she thinks a raccoon may have entered – it would be a tight squeeze, but it was the only possibility. She caught the rest of the Great Horned Owl family and temporarily moved them for the night to keep them safe. Repairs will be made on the enclosure today.

While it’s startling to think that a Great Horned Owl could be harmed by a raccoon, it’s likely that this juvenile owl just didn’t have the defense skills that it needed. The Center keeps young Great Horned Owls until the fall; though the owls can fly well by summer, they are not old enough to hunt for themselves, and typically rely on their parents for food and protection throughout the summer.

June 6, 2019

The three Great Horned Owlets have been doing very well in the outdoor flight pen with Papa G’Ho.

Following a foot and feather check on June 3, wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey determined that the owl family could move to a larger space – one of the Center’s longest and tallest flight pens. In this space, the owlets will be able to practice flying as they get older, and the large birds will have more space to spread out and explore.

The family is now featured on Critter Cam; viewers are able to observe the young birds as they grow and interact with their siblings and surrogate parent.

May 29, 2019

The owl family has been doing well during the past few weeks; the young owlets are increasingly active and have been exploring their flight pen.

Great Horned Owl #19-0341 is the youngest owlet of the three and has been growing in blood feathers (his adult flight feathers) during the past couple of weeks; at the most recent feather check on Monday, May 27, the feathers were nearly fully grown in. The rehab team will re-check the feathers on Thursday, May 30 and as long as everything looks good, the entire owl family will be moved to flight pen A2 so they have more space. There is a Critter Cam up and ready in this enclosure, so keep an eye out for them on Cam 3!

May 2, 2019

Since moving to an outdoor enclosure, Great Horned Owlets #19-0148 and #19-0223 have been doing well. The two birds have been in a flight pen with surrogate Great Horned Owl Papa G’Ho since April 8. In this time, both owlets have gained weight; owlet #19-0148 now weighs 1.44 kg and #19-0223 weighs 1.12 kg.

The owlets are wearing temporary colored leg bands to identify them while they are housed together. Owlet #19-0223 is wearing a blue band and owlet #19-0148 is wearing a yellow band.

Both owlets have started flying around their enclosure. Wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey reports that the owlets are “appropriately aggressive” toward their human caregivers. This is a good sign that the owlets are learning proper behavior from Papa.

On April 30, Great Horned Owlet #19-0341 was introduced into the flight pen with Papa and owlets #19-0148 and #19-0223.

April 9, 2019

Great Horned Owlet #19-0148 is eating on its own and gaining weight. The young owlet has gained 390 grams since admission, and now weighs a total of 1.10 kilograms.

On March 29, another Great Horned Owlet was admitted to the Wildlife Center. The new owlet #19-0223 was placed in the crate with owlet #19-0148, so both owlets could see Papa G’Ho. The new owlet is at a different development stage than owlet #19-0148. Owlet #19-0223 is slightly older and already started “branching” – when a young birds sits on the branches of its nesting tree and starts explore more and flap its wings. This is a crucial behavior exhibited before fledging. In the case of these owlets in captivity, branching means sitting on the edge of a tub. Observing the older owl could help owlet #19-0148 learn these important natural behaviors.

On March 8, all three owls were moved to an outdoor enclosure. The owlets will spend the next several months in this enclosure with Papa G’Ho. With Papa, these young owls will learn how to behave appropriately so that they can hopefully be released back into the wild in the fall.