Barn Owl (Case History #4)

Older nestling held for treatment, replaced by fostered nestling, later returned to nest with fostered nestling and another sibling

In 2004, in the town of Chula Finnee in Cleburne County, Alabama, a tornado broke off one of the main branches of a large shade tree, damaging the nest cavity of a family of Barn Owls. Two older nestlings were found on the ground the next morning.  Wildlife Center volunteers Tim and Fran Johnson from Anniston responded to the finder’s call to our emergency hotline, but when they arrived, only one of the nestlings was still alive. At the Wildlife Center, this  juvenile was given a physical exam and  found to be uninjured. However, a routine fecal exam revealed that the bird had coccidia, a protozoan parasite requiring treatment for a minimum of 10 days.

We gave Tim and Fran an orphaned nestling of about the same age to take back to Chula Finnee to take the place of the missing nestlings. The orphan needed the social contact, as it was the only young Barn Owl we were caring for at that time.  When Tim and Fran returned to Chula Finnee, they discovered that there was a third young barn owl that had not fallen out of the nest cavity. Tim covered the gaping hole in the side of the tree so that it would be safer for the owl family, and placed the orphan in the cavity with the other nestling. About 12 days later, Tim and Fran took the other nestling that had remained at the Center back to join its family in Chula Finnee. Some weeks later he went back to check on them and brought along a camera. All three birds, now fully feathered, peered up at him from the cavity. The picture he took of the three fledglings is one of the most beautiful depictions of Barn Owls that I have ever seen.

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