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World Owl Trust - leading the World in Owl Conservation
Tuesday 21st October, 2014

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The Long-eared Owl Story

Long-eared Owl Chicks

On the 4th July we received an emergency call from some forestry workers. They had be felling timber and inadvertently felled a tree with a nest of 3 Long-eared Owlets hidden in it.

When the Owlets arrived myself and Chris Sperring from the Hawk and Owl Trust (who happened to be visiting) rushed to the wildlife hospital to meet the new arrivals.
These balls of grey fluff showed little resemblance to Long-eared Owls but thankfully were fit and healthy. Our initial thought was to return them to the site where they were found as Long-eared Owls unlike Barn Owls leave the actual nest site much sooner at approx 3 weeks old by climbing or jumping in a similar manner to the Tawny Owl. They are unable to fly for at least another week when their primary, secondary and tail feathers have developed.

Long-eared Owl Long-eared Owl

However there was a complication. The forestry operations were due to continue for a number of weeks and would cause considerable noise and disturbance to the young Owls. It was decided to keep them here at Muncaster and look for a new suitable release site.

This wasn’t as trouble free as you, might think.
As the Owls grew stronger and started branching – when a young Owl starts to move around and try to begin to fly. One of the Owlets was showing signs of human imprinting and made a continuous squeaking noise rather like a rusty old gate whenever it came into contact with humans.

Long-eared Owl

Thankfully the squeaking has stopped! A soft release aviary was built and all three Owlets were transferred on 1st August. Keeping them all together and having minimal human contact payed off and all three definitely look and think like Owls. The smallest no longer squeaks and none are overly fond of humans. They no longer look like balls of grey fluff but thin and stick like just as a Long-eared Owls should. The final release back into the wild will happen this month so watch this space to find out how they get on!

With special thanks to Drayton Manor Park for their kind donation which enabled us to construct the soft release aviary.

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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.
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