HOW TO IDENTIFY OWLS IN DISTRESS
FROM JANICE ENRIGHT, A WING AND A PRAYER, MUSKOKA CENTRE FOR WILD BIRDS
1. The eyes become slits (best seen at dawn and dusk). The slitty-eyed look does not change when approached by humans. The owl does not seem interested in its surroundings.
2. The owl has an unnatural puffiness under the neck and around the back while sitting on its perch. Its shape is more rounded and humped over than erect and alert.
3. If the owl is at a low level and does not fly away when approached, you should consider this a strong sign of distress. Watch this bird closely. Any bird that does not fly for 1-2 days is probably in severe distress and needs immediate help.
4. If other birds such as crows and blue jays are mobbing an owl and the owl does not fly away or seem to retaliate, this could be cause for concern. It is normal for such mobbing to take place but a healthy owl will defend itself or fly away.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT A PARTICULAR
1. Do not touch the bird or attempt to approach it. The less stress placed on such a bird the better. As well, its talons are lethal weapons.
2. Keep animals such as dogs and cats away from the bird. They may also stress the bird and cause further deterioration.
3. PHONE JANICE ENRIGHT AT 705-385-1488. She is dedicated to the work of helping these birds and is willing to come out at any time to assess the bird and do what is necessary. Try to contact her as soon as you have concerns as timing is important and it is much easier for her to help a bird when it is daylight.
4. Prepare a box for the possible transfer of the bird to her bird centre. The box should be large enough for the bird to sit and turn around in, but not big enough for it to spread its wings causing further damage. Line the box with clean towelling, but use nothing that will fray. Make two holes about the size of a loonie or a toonie in all four sides of the box at the top.
5. While viewing these birds, be respectful regarding the distance you maintain. If you are, for instance, any closer than 100 feet to a great gray owl, you are too close. These birds require three or four 40gram rodents daily and if a person (friend or foe - it doesn't know the difference) is closer than 100 feet this may well inhibit its hunting routine causing it to miss valuable meals. During the winter months, this can become a serious problem. Let's enjoy nature first by showing our respect.
(Remember that there is a critical weight loss for these birds and once that is reached, nothing can be done to save them. Janice is most anxious to hear about any birds in trouble and thanks everyone for their interest and cooperation.)