May 14, 2012

The Stargazing Owl

As M. and I enter our third season as wildlife-transport volunteers (Wildlife Taxi, we call it around the house), we learn more about all the things that can go wrong.

Friday's call came around 9 a.m. An owl was inside a building-supply store in a nearby town. The Raptor Center said that they had room for it, and M. was planning to go to Pueblo anyway, so we split up the trip, me to get the bird and then hand it off to her to take to the center.

I walked into the store with my gauntlets and carrier, introduced myself to the cashier, and said, "I'm here  to see Paul about an owl."

Paul turned out to be the boss, and the bird — a great horned owl fledgling — was in the attached warehouse, huddled on the concrete floor behind next to some shelves. A forklift rolled past, trailing propane exhaust.

Paul held the carrier, and I scooped up the young owl. Nothing felt broken. He said that owls nested on the high warehouse roof.  The store is on the edge of town, with lots of open pasture around for the hunting of mice, prairie dogs, rabbits, and other prey. This one was out of the nest and had somehow crept into the warehouse.

M. came home that afternoon and said that all was not well. The fledgling had a problem with "stargazing."
Typically the muscles to the sides of the neck will be contracting causing a twitching and twisting if they contract singly, or pulling the head directly back pointing the beak to the sky if they contract together.
(Go here and scroll down to the description.)

The condition that can be caused by poor nutrition, injury,  or other things.

I talked with the center's director today. She was giving the owl vitamin supplements and said that it had a good appetite. Tomorrow it goes to the vet for X-rays and further examination. Sometimes afflicted birds have poor balance, so maybe that was why it was out of the nest.

She said that she would give it a week to ten days to show improvement. Otherwise, that's the end of the trail.

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