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January 21, 2014

Owl Chick Reunited with Family

SFWC goes to great lengths to ensure that an infant great horned owl returns safely to her nest

  • The great horned owl chick gets a close-up at SFWC. Dr. Antonia Gardner/SFWC

  • A view of the owl chick and her sibling after a successful re-nesting. Jim Fisher/SFWC

  • In a follow-up visit, the rescued chick can be seen with one of her parents in her nest. Jim Fisher/SFWC

  • A bucket truck made it possible to reach the owl's nest, approximately five stories up in a tree. Jim Fisher/SFWC

Thanks to a quick-thinking couple from Ohio, it’s a happy new year for an owl family in South Florida.

In late December, a great horned owl chick was found on the ground at the foot of a tree by two vacationers. Too young to fly, hunt for food, or evade predators on her own, the chick was picked up and brought to South Florida Wildlife Center for immediate care.

Upon intake, SFWC Veterinarian Antonia Gardner assessed the owl and found that, although she likely fell from a nest in the tree under which she was found, she had not sustained any major injuries. Therefore, in keeping with the Center’s best-practices policy to attempt to re-nest all healthy wildlife young who have locatable parents, the next step was to quickly find her nest and family.

When members of the public bring a rescued animal to SFWC, staff makes record of the location at which the animal was found. This record helps determine, in general, the preferred location for release following successful rehabilitation and, in this case, the location for a re-nesting attempt.

With this information in-hand, SFWC licensed wildlife rehabilitator Jim Fisher returned to the location where the chick was rescued. High up in the tree he spotted an owl nest that was home to two adult owls and another infant owl chick. The nest was located almost five stories up in a tree, which made it even more amazing that the rescued chick had even survived the initial fall.

For the re-nesting, a local construction company lent a bucket truck that enabled Mr. Fisher to safely transport the owl chick all the way up to her nest in the tree. With the adult owls watching from a nearby tree, Jim Fisher delicately placed the chick back into the nest with her sibling. When he returned several days later to gauge the success of the re-nesting effort, Mr. Fisher observed all four great horned owls—two infant chicks and two adults—reunited and living peacefully. The re-nesting effort was a success.

Watch as the rescued owl chick is reunited with her sibling:

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