A bit of research helped Medical Staff identify the babies as Western Screech Owls. These owls are a common-enough species in Northern California, but it is very unusual to see owls of any species at this incredibly young age!
What had happened to these babies? How did they end up on the edge of a steep driveway, at least 18 feet below their nest cavity?
The tiny owls were placed in Foster Care where they were fed approximately every three hours around the clock. They were kept in a warm incubator because birds this small and downy can't thermoregulate on their own.
Meanwhile, volunteers went to the site where the babies were found to see if a reunite with their parents was possible.
Where did they come from?
The oak tree the babies probably came from was easy to spot, right next to the driveway where they were found. But careful examination of the tree seemed to indicate only one possible location for the nest cavity, and it was about 18 feet up. An 18-foot fall would have been a lot for these tiny birds and, while they may have survived it, they would probably show evidence of their long tumble.
Hungry Owl Project (HOP) raptor experts enlisted the aid of a tree climber to check out the cavity and, if possible, return the little babies to their mother's care.WildCare and HOP are partners, and our combined efforts have renested many nestling raptors.
Once up the tree, Merlin Schlumberger of Merlin's Tree and Farm Care said he could see deep into the cavity, but that it seemed to keep going down, probably too far to be usable as the nest site. Further exploration of the tree didn't reveal any other possible nesting sites, so Anne and Alex started examining the base of the tree.
They found a pile of wood debris, and when Anne reached her hand into a hole in the trunk, the mystery was solved.
The entire trunk was hollow, and whatever the mother owl had used as a base on which to build her nest had collapsed. Probably the hatching and subsequent movements of the tiny owlets was enough to break through whatever platform had been in place.
The tiny babies must have tumbled down the hollow trunk and popped out the hole Anne discovered, only to fall further to the driveway's edge. The discovery of an unhatched egg in the woody debris below the tree confirmed this scenario.
one of the babies did not survive the week, so only one baby remains to
be raised in Foster Care. He will need be paired with other Screech Owl
babies as soon as possible.
The Hungry Owl Project
is looking for an active Screech Owl nest with babies of a similar age
into which they could place this baby. They have had success with
orphaned babies like this one being adopted by owl parents. Contact the
Hungry Owl Project at firstname.lastname@example.org if you live in Marin and have an active Screech Owl box or nest.
Wildlife Rescue Guide
When the San Anselmo homeowner and her children saw how small these little owlets were, it was very obvious that they needed to be rescued. Any baby bird that has white fluffy down needs to be rescued, especially with his eyes still sealed shut. A baby that young can't be away from his mother for long, and needs immediate help!
This was an easy decision for the rescuers, but sometimes it's hard to tell if a baby animal needs rescue. Remember to ask yourself, "Is that baby O-K?" and look for the Five C's which indicate an animal needs emergency care.
For more extensive information to help you determine if a wild animal needs rescue, click to read our Wildlife Rescue Guide!
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