Options for Older Juveniles

Young brancher Great Horned Owl


Young Branchers

Branchers should always be returned to the exact location where found and returned to the nest if at all possible.  Even if they no longer spend all of their time in the nest, they usually return to the nest for feeding and resting for a week or two while fledging.


Older Branchers

Older juveniles of some species, such as Great Horned Owls, are often grounded during this period.  The parents will guard and feed them, and they are unlikely to stay in the nest if you try to put them back.  For these older branchers, it’s better to place the bird on a branch in thick cover, with higher branches forming a ladder up into the canopy. The use of the recorded calls may be instrumental in locating the adults before the young bird is placed in a location where it might move up out of reach.

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Older brancher Great Horned Owl


Exceptions for Older Branchers

Branchers of some species, such as Great Horned Owls, frequently spend a period of several weeks on the ground, moving around freely to low branches, fences, and back to the ground. On golf courses and in other large natural areas it is the author’s policy to leave these juveniles on the ground as long as the adults are definitely guarding and feeding the juvenile.

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Protective Detention for Older Branchers

Brancher Great Horned Owl in protective detention

Unfortunately, in some locations a brancher may be at risk of injury from dogs or other conditions that the wildlife rehabilitator cannot remedy. In these situations, it is sometimes possible to take the young bird into “protective custody” for a week to 10 days, or until the bird is able to fly, or climb to high perches. At the Wildlife Center, we hold these branchers temporarily in a flight cage with other juveniles and adults of the same species.  The bird is placed on the ground with a substrate of pine straw and plenty of leafy cover. Low and intermediate perching is made available nearby. As soon as the young bird begins perching, it can safely be returned to its family. This works best if there is another sibling still being cared for by the parents.  As long as the adults are still tending young, they will accept their lost brancher even after a separation of a week or ten days. If no other siblings are present, you can foster another juvenile to keep the adults in their active parenting mode.  Click here for a case history


Fledgling Barred Owl



Fledglings often come in with injuries received shortly after fledging, but before the juvenile is independent. If the injuries are minor and can be quickly resolved, the bird can be returned to the exact location where found. Playing the recorded calls often draws one of the adults into view, making it safe to release the bird back into its parent’s custody.

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