This is Troy the tawny owl.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Troy and hear his very valuable story about how he came to be a resident at a bird conservation facility called the Hawk Conservancy Trust.
Troy was found by a member of the public when he was a young chick. Upon finding Troy and presuming he had been abandoned by his parents, the resident took the little bird to her home to care for him until she suspected that he was old enough to be released, which is when she took him to the Conservancy Trust to ask them to safely release the owl for her.
However, the Trust soon realised that Troy could not be released due to the fact that he had already been imprinted, as he had received an excessive amount of human interaction since he was very young.
This therefore made him entirely reliable on people, meaning that he would not survive if he were to be released into the wild as he does not know how to hunt for himself, and simply relies on people to give him food, as this is all he has ever known.
Whilst people often believe that they are saving the bird by taking it into their home to look after, this is actually one of the worst things that you could do, and will seriously impact the bird’s future.
So what do you do if you find a chick alone and out of its nest?
Below I have compiled a list of the steps that you should take if you ever find yourself in such a situation – I hope that you find it helpful…
- First, identify what stage of growth the bird is at by using this simple guide:
- Hatchling – has no feathers, its eyes are closed, it can hardly move
- Nestling – eyes open, small amount of tiny feathers, that may be clumped together
- Fledgling – can hop, can flutter its wings, has short feathers
2. If the bird is a hatchling or a nestling, look to see if you can find the nest – it will be nearby as it is likely that the bird has simply fallen out. If you find it, gently return the bird to the nest. If you cannot see it, quickly make a small nest from a basket lined with dry grass that you can then secure to a tree as close as possible to where you found the chick. Place the chick inside and monitor the nest. If the parents do not return within 2 hours, call your local wildlife rehabilitator.
3. If the bird is a fledgling, it is best to leave it alone. Fledglings are birds that are still being fed by their mothers, but will often be on the ground because they are trying to learn how to fly. Despite the bird looking awkward and unsure, this is a natural process. Therefore if you take the bird into your home, you will distress both the fledgling and the mother who will have lost her baby.
Well done for doing the right thing. Although it is natural to want to intervene, this could cause irreversible harm to the bird, just like Troy the tawny owl.
As with everything, there are exceptions to these guides, which include if the bird is injured. If you find an injured bird, or if you are simply unsure of if the bird is a nestling or fledgling, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitator for advice.