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Two hatchling Great Horned Owlets receive second chance at life in the wild

Great Horned Owlet
Photo courtesy Wildlife Center of Virginia.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia, on March 3, admitted two young Great Horned Owlets, the first hatchling raptors seen as patients during 2022. A private citizen found the hatchling owls alone on the ground near a Greer and Associates construction site in Albemarle County on March 2, after the birds had likely fallen from their nest.

A thorough exam performed by Wildlife Center veterinarians did not reveal any major physical injuries, and radiographs showed the owlets had stomachs full of food — signifying the parents were still caring for and feeding these young birds. Hatchlings have the best chance of survival when cared for by their wild parents, so Wildlife Center staff prioritized re-nesting these owlets in their original nest.

On March 5, Wildlife Center staff transported the owlets back to their site of rescue and attempted to re-nest the hatchlings with help from the Greer and Associates construction crew and their equipment. While the initial attempt was successful, within 36 hours one of the owlets had fallen to the ground again.

Wildlife Center staff heard and saw the adult owl nearby, as well as signs of the owlet feeding. Center staff placed the owlet inside a temporary artificial nest attached to the same tree on March 6, and contacted Greer and Associates’ site manager on March 8 to check on the owlet’s status.

The artificial nest had remained in place, neither owlet was seen on the ground, and an adult Great Horned Owl was possibly seen in the area that same morning, indicating that the second re-nesting attempt was likely a success.

One of several native species of owls found in Virginia, Great Horned Owls typically mate and lay eggs during late January and early February, with incubation periods lasting about 30 days. These hatchling owls, the 177th and 178th admissions to the Center during 2022, are likely less than one month in age.


augusta free press
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