Sunday, February 2, 2014

Northern Saw-whet Owl story ends badly

Today, I heard from my friend Audrey that someone had dropped off an injured Saw-whet Owl that was seen being harassed by crows.  She thought the owl had a head injury, possibly from a collision. There was no bleeding or obvious trauma to the head except an abnormal skewed head position. The wings were fine and it was able to fly a few feet but was somewhat thin. At the advice of the Owl Foundation she only gave the owl water until transport to their facility. 

I was called by the Foundation to help in transporting the owl as my spouse and I have volunteered to help out as drivers. There was quite a snowfall last night so it was agreed that we would bring the owl to the Toronto Wildlife Centre, which is closer, saving us a few hours on the road. I prepared a box for transport.

Northern Saw-whet owl so tiny he fits in one hand
Sadly when we arrived to pick up the owl, Audrey announced that it had just died. She held the still soft body for us to see. It is not often that we get to see these wee owls up close. It was heart wrenching to see this sad little body, a life cut short. Most people don't even know these tiny magnificent creatures exist. Saw-whet owls are 18-23 cm tall with a wingspan of 43-55 cm. They are small but mighty hunters taking whatever they can,  be it a bird, a vole, a mouse etc.. Hard to believe it had survived the harsh winter up to now.

The Saw-whet sadly didn't survive
Normally injured owls are taken to the Owl Foundation in Vineland but on occasion the Foundation will arrange to have the owl taken to the Toronto Wildlife Centre where it can receive emergency care. If an owl requires specialized care or a longer rehab it is then transferred to the Owl Foundation. Injured wildlife should always be cared for in a licensed rehabilitation centre.

Both these agencies operate on donations and with the help of many volunteers; the staff are caring and well trained,  so it you have a soft spot for injured owls or any other wildlife please support these wonderful agencies by visiting their websites and making a donation.

 During winter when food is scarce, Owls often perch on fenceposts or top of hydro poles during the daytime, near roadsides scanning for prey. This makes them vulnerable to collisions with cars. If you do see an owl, admire it from a distance, do not disturb it as trying to find food in winter conditions is difficult enough without us interfering. Many fail to find enough food to survive. Enjoy it’s magnificence from a distance.


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