Thursday, 8 April 2010

A short guide to being an owl hero

My dad asked me an interesting question the other day;
"What would you do if somebody called you up saying that they had an injured owl? Would you know what to do?"

Now, obviously I hope none of you ever encounter an injured owl, but these things are good to share - so, just in case, here is my guide on how to be an owl hero. :)

1. Obviously, you must ascertain first whether the bird is actually injured or not. A good sign is that the owl makes no attempt to (or can't) run or fly away from you, and looks in a general poor and bedraggled state. These are signs of an owl that needs expert help and your job is to deliver it to safe hands.

2. Covering the bird with a blanket, coat or jumper will keep the bird warm and calm it by blacking out its vision. IMPORTANT: It is very easy to kill a bird by shock, or damage it further. Minimise contact as much as possible.

3. If you can, transfer the bird into a ventilated box with enough room for it to crawl around. Make sure it is comfortable - newspaper and old clothing to line the box will do, but don't use sawdust or anything in bits, and do not provide water. DO NOT attempt to touch, treat or feed the bird yourself. This is important because:
  • You may further injure or stress the bird.
  • With enough contact it may imprint on you - that is, it will begin to bond with you, effectively recognise you as its parent and will no longer be able to be released back into the wild. It needs to recognise that humans are the enemy and cannot do this when it sees us as a source of food and nurturing!
4. Get the poor thing to the nearest bird of prey centre AS SOON AS POSSIBLE- look in your local directory for numbers to call. Every minute is vital.

5. Wash yer hands afterwards. Those owls are dirty ;p

This method works for every bird out there too, but take care with birds of prey as they're potentially dangerous. Remember that if the bird isnt a bird of prey, then a BOP centre won't want to know about it - get it instead to an RSPCA or wildlife hospital unit, or even to a local vet.