While baby bird season is beginning to wind down, we are still receiving Mockingbirds, Blue Jays and Dove. The pictured Mockingbird is a fledgling. From hatching of an altricial species to the unfurling of enough flight feathers to flutter short distances is considered the nestling stage. Babies are completely dependent on the parents at this stage for nourishment, warmth and protection. Once they fledge, the young will continue to beg for food, but will begin to search for food on their own. Within a few days they are flying well and feeding themselves. Precocial species like Killdeer, chickens and ducks are mobile and self-feeding shortly after hatching. They require mom’s protection and guidance to find good sources of food. They will hang together as a group until the young are flying well. Then the group will disperse. Raptors, especially the larger owls have an additional development phase called branchling that occurs between nestling and fledgling. Branchling babies can’t really fly yet, but they leave the nest and spread out along the nearby branches. They continue to be fed by the parents and strengthen their wings by vigorous flapping. They begin to experiment with flight by jumping and fluttering between branches.
The Great Horned Owl Cyndi Bohannon The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is arguably one of the most majestic of all raptors. Solitary in nature, a group would be called a Parliament. Of the order Strigifermes and family Strigidae, the Great Horned owl is considered a “true owl”. The other owl family, Tytonidae include barn owls. Eight sub-species have been recognized. The territories of sub-species rarely overlap. The largest owl in the United States, it can stand 18 to 27 inches and have a wingspan of 48 to 60 inches! The Great Horned owl is the most widely distributed true owl in the Americas, inhabiting all ecosystems except deep desert and Arctic tundra. The overall coloration ranges from near white in the far northern portion of their range to dark chocolate brown in the southern regions. Size and weight varies geographically with the larger, heavier individuals living in colder climates. The females are larger than the males and weight ranges between two and a half and four pounds. All sub-species share the overall markings: prominent ear-tufts or “horns”, white patch at the throat, narrow bars on the front and a random mottled back. The Great Horned Owl primarily hunts at night, but sightings at dawn and dusk are not unusual. Perched high above an open area, it silently swoops down upon almost anything that moves. Its diet is extremely diverse, but small to medium mammals, birds and waterfowl are favorites. It is the only known predator of the skunk. Unlike many raptors, the Great Horned Owl will walk on the ground to gather crawfish, amphibians, reptiles or large insects. It have been known to walk into henhouses and wade into shallow water for a meal. [...]
A Miraculous Return to Health by Margaret Pickel It was a lucky fall day for Athene Cunicularia commonly known as the Burrowing Owl, when two young children found her in the middle of a street in Baytown. Acting quickly, they picked her up and with the help of their dad, brought her to the Wildlife Center. Our newfound patient was evaluated and was found to have a severe head injury. X-rays revealed no broken bones; however, she could not stand and had total paralysis in her legs and talons. Anti-inflammatory medication was administered. In the weeks that followed, volunteers patiently tried every trick in the book to stimulate feeding. Rehabbers provided physical therapy and slowly, first one leg and then the other began to function. Time and support at the Wildlife Center gave her the opportunity to recover. The Burrowing Owl is not as common in the Houston area as in years past. Habitat destruction, subsidence and fire ants are suspected for the decline. The gulf coast is a favorite wintering location and it is believed that the injured owl was either in migration or wintering here. Unfortunately, being ground dwellers often they are killed by vehicles while crossing roadways. Natural enemies abound including coyotes, snakes, feral and domestic cats and dogs. The Burrowing Owl has been moved to one of the Wildlife Center’s flight cages to allow her to strengthen her wings. Once her wings are strong enough and she is feeding reliably, volunteers will relocate her to an area with a resident population. Burrowing Owls Fast Facts and Strange Quirks The Burrowing Owl is a small, long-legged little creature standing about eight inches tall. Crouched at the mouth of its burrow or [...]