For some cultures, owls are sacred and to be revered. In other cultures, owls are viewed with suspicion due to superstitions about witchcraft and death. In the veterinary field, owls are viewed with the utmost respect and interest.
The Exotic Bird Hospital recently had the opportunity to help a barred owl that a kind pedestrian found by the side of the road. Worried that the bird had experienced some sort of trauma, the pedestrian immediately brought the owl to our hospital.
We are so happy that this good Samaritan, our clients, doctors and techs all give a hoot about owls and other animals. Dr. Borger suspected this owl was hit by a car, and without the intervention of this wonderful person, he may not have survived.
Barred Owl Patient Exam and Care
Upon examination, Dr. Borger determined that the owl did not have any broken bones, but he did have neurological abnormalities. It is likely that the owl would not have survived if left on his own. Our doctors decided it was best to provide supportive care to get the owl well enough to go to a licensed rehabilitation establishment where he would be cared for until ready to safely return to the night skies.
The Exotic Bird Hospital is lucky to have very skilled and caring team members. Our veterinary technician Lindsay has an impressive resume consisting of previous work with the Jacksonville Zoo, the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, and she has worked in rehabilitation with raptors and other animals.
With her experience and caring nature, Lindsay was the obvious choice for rehabilitating our owl patient. She hand-fed him Carnivore Care and fed him mice, and it was apparent that she enjoyed the time she spent with the cute owl.
Lindsay is well-versed with raptors and other wild animals. We all learned a lot just by watching and listening to Lindsay as she explained how owls are different from the birds most of us are more accustomed to seeing at our hospital.
In fact, Lindsay is so enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge that she compiled the following information about owls to share with everyone. She hopes that this knowledge will create an appreciation for these beautiful birds.
Owls do occasionally get hit by cars and are sometimes stunned and neurologic as a result. Also, rat poison that is ingested by rodents and some pesticides can be detrimental to owls and other birds of prey, so please refrain from using pest control methods that will harm these beautiful birds.
Lindsay’s Owl Info
There are two types of owl families. The families are Tyto Owls (barn owls) and Strigidae (True owls).
Like all owls, barred owls are known for their nocturnal habits, keen hearing, and silent flight. Owls achieve this slight flight by outer fringes on the wings, which allow airflow to roll over the owl’s wing, and the dorsal velvet of the barred owl wing feathers, which gives them a very ‘soft’ feel.
These soft feathers are responsible for absorbing high frequency sound. The soft feathers and fringes on the wings also reduce air turbulence. The turbulence is what creates the ‘whooshing noise’ you hear when other birds fly. This reduction in turbulence allows these gorgeous birds to have near silent flight, which comes in handy when they are looking to grab a bite to eat.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
The feathers of the ruff are thick and contain filamentous ‘auricular’ feathers of the facial disc. This helps to channel sound towards the ears like a fuzzy satellite dish.
The two ears are asymmetrical in their positioning in most owl species with the left ear positioned lower than the right. This helps the owl distinguish between when a sound hits one ear compared to the other. This small distinction helps the owl to better locate the direction from which the sound originates.
Fuzzy Boots for the Hoots
Owl feet are what is called zygodactyl. This means they have two toes that face forward and two that face back, though owls can move one of their toes back and forth to help them walk.
Owl legs are feathered all the way down, which helps to protect them from the cold.
Do You See What I See?
Unlike our eyes, owl eyes are immobile in their sockets. To compensate for this, the owl is able to turn its head a full 270 degrees! Owls have large tubular eyes that contain far more rods than ours granting them superior vision in low lighted conditions.
Owls tend to be very far-sighted and have difficulty distinguishing objects close to them. To compensate for this, they rely on some of the finer, bristly feathers around their beaks to detect objects at close range.
Barred owls are famous for their nocturnal calling of, “Who cooks for youuuu! Who cooks for yoooou!” These owls are widespread in North American and are found primarily from Florida to the Southern point of Canada.
Barred owls prefer deciduous forest habitats. Like all owls, the barred owl is primarily active at night. They will often eat any many mice and other small rodents. Barred owls will also indulge in meals with menus consisting of squirrels, rabbits, opossums, shrews, and other small mammals.
These owls will also extend their appetite to enjoy various birds, frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, and even some insects. A large part of their diet actually consists of crawfish.
The breeding season of barred owls is long and lasts from February to August. A typical nest will contain two to three eggs, and the last 28-33 days, the male brings the female food. The young leave the nest at four-five weeks but can still be fed for up to four months by the parents.
No Crop, No Problem!
Unlike other birds, Owls have no crop. Many of us with birds have at least heard the term crop. The crop refers to a pouch that is used to store food prior to digestion.
If you have a parrot, he or she has a crop. If you are ever curious about the crop, ask one of our veterinarians, and he or she will be glad to show you where it is and how to determine whether or not it has food in it.
Since an owl lacks a crop, food is passed directly into their digestive system and right into the gizzard, which grinds down the muscle, fat, skin, and organs.
Indigestible material left in the gizzard such as teeth, skulls, claws, and feathers are too dangerous to pass through the rest of the owl’s digestive tract. To safely excrete this material, the owl’s gizzard compacts it into a tight pellet that the owl regurgitates. The regurgitated pellets are known as owl pellets.
Owls are birds of prey with specific needs. As such, these birds need to be rehabilitated by a licensed professional. Once stable and after making contact with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Lindsay was able to transfer our owl patient to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.
The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey is a wonderful non-profit establishment that seeks to rehabilitate and release injured raptors. Like so many nonprofits, this organization has been hit hard by Covid-19. If you are interested in learning more about this organization or sending a donation to help contribute to the care of this owl and others like him, visit https://cbop.audubon.org/