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Back to the Barn for Two Baby Barn Owls



It seemed to be raining owls recently at a horse barn in Redmond, WA. Two downy, white Barn Owl babies had plopped down on the barn's sandy floor, and it wasn't immediately clear whether or not their parents were still in the area. The babies were brought to PAWS for an examination. They were found to be dehydrated and a little bit skinny, but otherwise healthy. After fluids and a meal, they even got a little bit feisty with their caretakers.


Owls this young would not have wandered far from their nest, and since Barn Owls are very prolific, we knew that there were likely more babies in that barn. I visited the barn two days after the young owls were admitted. Brad, the man who had rescued the owls, showed me a long shelf above the door that he believed was the nest site. It looked like a very likely site to me as well.


I climbed up a ladder to inspect the shelf and see if any additional babies were present. I peeked over the top to find two white fluff balls huddled together toward the back wall. I was excited to see that they were surrounded by a wide variety of prey items that had been brought to them by their parents. I saw two rats, a vole, and an entire mole. These babies were being well taken care of.


Since the nest site was still active and there were clear signs that the parents were around, we were able to return our two wayward babies to their home. PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager Emily Meredith and I returned to the barn the next day with the babies in tow. Brad and another member of the horse farm staff placed a plywood barrier across the back of the nest shelf to block off a gap through which the babies had fallen. I then climbed up to put the babies back in the nest with their siblings.


As soon as the baby owls were back on their nest shelf, it became clear why these two had fallen. Like tiny, fuzzy explorers they began to walk all over the shelf. One of them headed off to the right toward an unprotected edge.


One of the newly returned owls settled down fairly quickly. He leaned up against the freshly installed safety barrier and looked back in my direction.


The other owl kept right on going, pausing periodically to look over the plywood barrier as if he was trying to determine the best way to take another gravity-powered trip down to the barn floor.


Eventually, the little owl made it all the way to the end of the shelf. He looked down and saw Emily looking up at him. Emily shook both her finger and her head at the owl, and he spread his partially feathered wings and shook his head back at her. He must have quickly sensed that he was outmatched though, because he backed away from the edge even as he was still doing his best to keep up his threat display.

With both babies safe and sound in their nest site, I climbed down and left them to their parents care.



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