Barred Owl (Case Histories #2, #3 and #4) Shuffling Barred Owls

One Sunday at the peak of Barred Owl nesting season in 2004, we mounted an expedition to return two juvenile Barred Owls to their parents. Tim Leopard and I were joined by Tim and Fran Johnson, from of Anniston, Alabama, who take part in a great many reunitings for the Wildlife Center.  The birds were from different areas, and we planned to devote an entire afternoon to the expedition.

Case #2
Nestling Barred Owl reunited to nest basket in original nest tree.  Sibling in shallow nest cavity moved to nest basket for safety.

Original nest cavity


Nest basket with nestling

Our first stop was a beautiful wooded area near Noccolula Falls, in Etowah County, Alabama. The nestling owl had been found at the base of a large Beech tree by a small pond.  When Tim Leopard, the Center’s volunteer tree climber, climbed up into the tree’s upper branches, he discovered another nestling owl huddled in a very shallow cavity in the tree.  This explained why the other nestling had been found on the ground. The nest cavity was dangerously shallow for the growing birds. Tim installed a nest basket close to the cavity and put both young birds in the basket. While Tim was descending the tree, one of the adults flew in to see what was happening to its offspring. It was not necessary to play the recorded calls at all.


Case #3
Unsuccessful attempt to reunite brancher found in the road

Our next stop was a rural area in St. Clair County, near Ohatchee, where a “brancher” barred Owl had been found in the middle of the road. We followed directions given to us by the finder, and thought we had located the area where the bird had been found.  Unfortunately, although we searched both sides of the road, there was no sign of a suitable nest site.  We played the recorded calls for awhile, but we were unable to raise a response.  This is a good example of why it is so important to have really accurate information about where a juvenile was found.  If at all possible, it is best to have the finder take you to the location.


Case #4
Brancher with minor injuries in Leeds replaced by orphan brancher from Ohatchee

We headed back to Birmingham with the unlucky Ohatchee brancher, but stopped in Leeds, just east of Birmingham, to respond to a call that had just come in to the Wildlife Center’s Emergency Hotline.

A landowner reported that a huge oak tree had come down in his yard a few days earlier, and a young owl had been sitting in the same spot in the branches of the tree ever since the night the tree fell. The property was right on the banks of the Little Cahaba River, with tall old trees surrounding a large, grassy lawn and a19th century house, one of the first built in the area. It was perfect Barred Owl habitat.


Little Cahaba River

The fact that the young bird was sitting in the open, and had not changed its perch in three days suggested that it might have suffered a concussion when the tree came down.  I decided to take it back to the Wildlife Center for a thorough physical exam.  In a few days, if the bird was behaving normally, we could bring it back and reunite it with its parents.  In the meantime, the adult birds could take care of the brancher from Ohatchee, whose parents we had failed to locate. This would keep the adult birds in their nesting mode until their own brancher could be returned, and it would also give the Ohatchee juvenile the chance to fledge in the wild. Tim Leopard placed the Ohatchee brancher on a secure perch about 15 feet above the ground, and only about 20 feet away from where the big oak tree had fallen.  There was no need to use the recorded calls, since both adult birds were in plain view.

Two days later we returned with the Leeds brancher, who had recovered from his concussion and was now bright, alert, and reactive. While Tim used a ladder to place the brancher on the same secure perch that he had used two days earlier, I wandered around the large open area, scanning the trees for the Ohatchee brancher. Sure enough, the young bird was visible about 50 feet away from the perch where we had left him, high up in the tree canopy.  As soon as the Leeds brancher was securely perched, and Tim had removed the ladder, we played the food-begging calls to draw the adult birds in, even though we knew they were somewhere nearby.  A minute or two later one of the adults flew directly to the branch where the Ohatchee brancher was perched, as if it assumed that this was the bird that was calling.  As the calls continued from a point directly below the other bird, the adult owl flew in and landed just a few feet away.  A few minutes later the other adult bird flew in and also perched nearby. Now the owls had two juveniles to care for, and in such an ideal setting, it was clear that they could handle the job.

Brancher in tree


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