This March, the Wildlife Center of Virginia admitted three Great Horned Owl hatchlings. These owlets, who were admitted as healthy orphans, will spend the spring, summer, and early fall at the Center, growing larger until they are ready to be released into the wild as mature owls. In order to learn the correct Great Horned Owl behaviors needed to survive in the wild, these three owlets are spending time with the Center’s non-releasable surrogate Great Horned Owl parent Papa G’Ho. As a surrogate, Papa is invaluable in helping these owls to prepare for life post-release.
Great Horned Owlet #21-0308
This hatchling was found on the ground near Bracey, Virginia on March 21. The rescuers called the Division of Wildlife Resources, who sent a Conservation Police Officer to help. The officer attempted to find the nest from which this hatchling fell, but was unable to locate the nest. The little owl was transported to the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke, before it was transferred to WCV on March 25. Upon presentation, this owlet was healthy, alert, and responsive.
Great Horned Owlet #21-0292
This hatchling was found on a road during a storm on March 18 near Cave Spring, VA. Although the location of the nest was known, professionals from the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke were unable to successfully re-nest the bird. The hatchling was transferred to WCV on March 21. Upon presentation, Center veterinarians noted that this patient was healthy, but a bit thin.
Great Horned Owlet #21-0245
This owlet was found on the ground near Boiling Spring, VA, on March 13. The rescuers made no attempt to renest the owl, and it was transported to the Wildlife Center on March 14. Upon admission, our veterinarians were pleased to find that the owlet had no injuries and that it was alert and responsive, with a slightly thin body condition.
All three owlets have now been introduced to Papa G'Ho, the Center's non-releasable surrogate Great Horned Owl. This has been done by placing them in a crate directly facing another crate in which Papa is housed. By allowing these three young owls to see Papa, they can begin to learn and develop those essential owl behaviors that are so important to learn at this young age.
These owls, along with Papa, are being housed in expanded ICU. Due to their small size, hatchlings have difficulty with thermoregulation, and would normally be kept warm by their mother in the nest. Because their mothers are not around, these babies must be housed indoors until they are old enough to maintain their own body heat. As their feathers grow and temperatures warm to a consistent 55 degrees or above, these little owls will begin acclimating to the outdoors.
The owls receive 100 grams of chopped mice every day, which will help them to gain weight and strength as they grow and mature. Attempts may be made to re-nest one of these owls in the near future, and more hatchlings may arrive at the Center for care and rehabilitation as the season continues.