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World Owl Trust - leading the World in Owl Conservation
Thursday 30th October, 2014

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A New Addition

This year the staff at the World Owl Trust decided that they needed another European eagle owl, Bubo bubo for the daily display and they decided to look for a baby that they could socialise and train to be part of the flying team.

Luckily, there were two eggs waiting to hatch at Furness Owls, not far away and it was decided that Furness Owls would give the Trust one of the owlets, keeping the other one for the female owl to raise herself.

Owl In A Box
Picture courtesy Jenny Lewin

The owlet came to the Trust when it was just two weeks old and was so cute that everyone fell in love with it and all the office ladies became its aunties, taking turns to look after it at night times - so the owlet ended up visiting many different places and was petted and fussed by lots of different people - young children to grandparents. This was ideal, as the owl needed to be “socialised” so that it trusted people and was relaxed and happy in human company. It spent its days in the Owl Trust office (shush, don’t tell the Health and Safety Inspector) and consumed a massive amount of mice. Well, it was growing super quick - doubling in size like a lump of proving bread dough!

Its days in the office were numbered though when it began to start learning to fly. It would run and hop and each day its feet would be off the ground for a little longer. It wouldn’t stay in its box and any documents which it managed to fan from the desk on to the floor with its daily wing exercises were promptly pecked and shredded by its enormous claws.

Eagle Owlet
Picture courtesy Darin Smith

To get it used to an audience, it was taken to the Meet the Birds Display each day - stealing the show from the regular performers. It particularly enjoyed watching Sparky flying to and fro - just like Wimbledon fortnight.

Then it took its first flight on the lawn in front of the castle, which made our Conservation Officer very happy because she won the “Date of the first official flight” office sweepstake.

It now needed a home of its own and its first temporary “des res” was one of the new aviaries next to the red kites This was great fun, lots of attention from the visitors, bark chippings to peck at, real leaves to pounce on and a favourite pastime of watching “Kite TV” – which consists of lots of wheeling around and calling.

Now it needed a proper name - so a competition was organised for Muncaster visitors to make suggestions - there were lots of them, suitable for either sex. The staff at the Centre were 98% confident it was a male but tests were carried out to make sure. It is not always easy to decide what sex an owl is and the usual technique for making sure is to take a small breast feather from the bird (just like pulling one of your hairs out!) and sending it to a scientist who extracts the DNA and compares it to male and female control samples taken from adult Eagle owls at the Centre. The eagle owlet was confirmed as a BOY. The judging panel decided on the name of Rollo, suggested by Catherine Blindell, aged 12. She has been given an adoption of Rollo for the year and will come to Muncaster to visit and help with Rollo's training this summer. After looking up the name Rollo on the Internet - the name has been found to be very apt – as there was a Rollo in the past who was a Norse Chieftain and became the Duke of Normandy.

Eagle Owl
Picture courtesy Jason Gallier

This is just the start for Rollo, he now has his own aviary on the Mews, where all the trained birds live, next to another Eagle Owl called Moss and the keepers and office staff visit him many times during the day to talk to him.

He now has his anklets fitted so that once his bones and feathers are fully developed he can wear jesses which will enable him to be carried around safely by the staff. He will start his training and preparation for flying as part of the Trust’s display and become an ambassador for his species - helping tell the conservation success story of the re-introduction of European Eagle Owls when they were threatened with extinction.

You can adopt Rollo by contacting the WOT Office or by clicking here and visit him in the Owl Garden at Muncaster.

Barbara Powell

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The World Owl Trust is a member of BIAZA
The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.
The World Owl Trust is a member of EAZA

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