Lucky little fledglings

We have recently taken several calls from concerned members of the public who have seen owls on the ground, looking confused or injured.

Roger and Kevin, the volunteers who curate our wild owl nest box scheme, have suggested that barn owls especially have fledged later than usual this year. Consequently, we think that perhaps a spate of windy autumnal weather has then resulted in these young birds being blown to the ground a bit earlier than typically predicted. In most cases, if these birds are fully feathered and able to fly, we stress that they are left alone.

However, there are circumstances where intervention is necessary.

This particular barn owl was found in a similar situation, but with the concern that it had also been clipped by a passing car. Upon close inspection, this extremely lucky owl only had a broken wing feather! It is otherwise in great condition and we are monitoring it closely for any other signs of injury.

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Continuing the run of good luck, this tawny owl also came to us on the same day, having suffered an RTA. Having been hit on the right wing, luckily, there were no long lasting injuries, and it is currently being monitored whilst returning to full health.

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Winging our way across the pond

Native Americans have a great spiritual connection to owls and other birds of prey such as the eagle, the raven and the red tail hawk.

Kevin Autry contacted us a few months back, all the way from North Carolina, U.S.A., and asked if we could spare any feathers for his religious ceremonies. We were intrigued and happy to help with this hands-across-the-water request, and were able to send a small selection of feathers from non-native species (that is, bird species from our display team not native to the UK), including the bateleur eagle, cara cara, spotted eagle owl, Siberian eagle owl, vulture and bald eagle.

Here is what he had to say upon receiving our parcel in the post:

“I am Lumbee Indian and Eastern Band Cherokee. The Lumbee are descended from the Cheraw Indians and are from the eastern part of the United States.

The feathers are used as a connection between me (Kevin), the Great Spirit (God) and the Spirit of the Bird. They are a symbol of respect and honour.

I wear them on my Regalia which is a traditional outfit that I wear during our tribal ceremony. I have not quite finished making the complete outfit yet, but I have finished a beaded hat that I wore, which has two of the owl feathers in it which you (Suffolk Owl Sanctuary) have donated. I have enclosed the photos of it and also a photo of a small prayer fan made of hawk feathers that I made for my granddaughter - she is 3 years old. She dances in our ceremony as a jingle dancer.” 

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We would also like to take this moment to thank Kevin for kindly donating to SOS in return - something which was not expected, but is very much appreciated and will help us to continue our rescue, education and conservation work which is so very important to our owls and birds of prey.  



Branchers keeping us busy this summer

For most birds of prey, spring and early summer is nesting season - which means that come mid-summer, there’s an influx of young fledglings getting themselves into predicaments as they start to branch.

Branching is when these young birds of prey learn to fly. They don’t develop this skill overnight though…they hop around on the branches near to their nest site for an extended period of time, developing their muscular strength, often returning to the nest to feed or to roost until they are fully independent. More often than not these little fledglings will end up tumbling to the floor whilst finding their feet (or wings!), at risk of being hit by passing traffic. 

Roads can be particularly problematic to all birds, however - not just these youngsters. High speed limits and wide lanes can make some roads especially deadly, and although many birds will sit on a perch and look out for food, barn owls in particular will eat on the wing and swoop low to hunt, sometimes straight into the path of oncoming traffic. Headlights can dazzle and stun these poor birds in the dark, making it quite a challenge to avoid these deadly obstacles, and strong winds and a downdraught from lorries can also prove a hazard, blowing lightweight birds out of control and into danger.

Suffolk Owl Sanctuary’s Raptor Hospital has seen an influx of such like admissions during the recent summer months, all demanding a high level of care and attention in order to give them the best possible chance of survival and a successful release back into the wild. 


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This weak little tawny owl (above) was found on the floor with an eye injury and a parasitic infection. As a young brancher, it’s fairly possible that it had suffered a traffic collision. After a week of treatment and a further week in one of our recuperation aviaries, we felt it was ready for a soft release.

Offering a soft release from a hacking aviary gives young birds an adjustment period to the territory, and a source of food whilst they learn to hunt. They are routinely fed for a period after release until we are confident the bird is establishing the necessary survival skills themselves.


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In July we cared for a large number of kestrels - four of which were newly fledged birds found with a variety of issues such as malnutrition, or injuries from road traffic collisions. 

All were nursed back to full health and also benefitted from a soft release.

This is one of the youngsters (above). Kestrels tend to have a very large clutch of eggs, often with only one or two going on to reach adulthood. With a period of time at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, we were able to give these newly hunting yearlings an increased chance at success. 


A group of little owl fledglings were all found alongside busy roads, rescued and brought in to us for a check over. 

Luckily they were all fit and healthy, and we were able to release them all together from our secluded hacking soft release aviary.


What to do if you find a young bird on the floor….

  • First and foremost, resist intervening - the parents are probably close by and still caring for them and watching for their safety. Adult birds of prey invest a huge amount of their time and resources into their offspring. The chicks also vocalise frequently and will potentially still be in audio contact with their parents, who will be watching or not far away.

  • If you feel like a serious injury has been sustained, carefully place the bird inside a covered and well ventilated cardboard box, on a towel or on some newspaper, and call your nearest bird of prey centre, found here: https://www.owl-help.org.uk/raptor-rescue-orgs

  • Do not give the bird food or water.

  • For emergency advice between 8.00am and 8.00pm call Suffolk Owl Sanctuary on 03456 807 897 (Opt 5).


Buzzard Blues

This buzzard was found locally lying on the ground in a bit of a poor state after being mobbed by crows. 

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Birds that breed in colonies like crows and gulls are widely seen to attack intruders, especially when their young and territory are threatened by the arrival of a larger bird. This includes flying about the intruder, dive bombing, loud squawking and defecating on them.

Although suffering with possible nerve damage to his leg, fortunately an x-ray showed no breaks with the buzzard we received.

Over the next few weeks, we hope that with some gentle physiotherapy, the leg will regain its movement and he can begin to build fitness again in one of the re-hab aviaries in our new raptor hospital.

The re-hab aviaries give birds time, space and solitude to recover before they are released back to the wild.

The re-hab aviaries give birds time, space and solitude to recover before they are released back to the wild.

Barn Owl Recovery

Avian casualties continue to be admitted to the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary raptor hospital throughout the winter months.

About a week ago, a beautiful mature barn owl was received into the facility having been referred from a local veterinary practice. The bird had suffered a blow to the head as the result of a road traffic accident.

After careful assessment, the vet was happy to report that the casualty had suffered only superficial bruising and in all other respects was a healthy bird with a great chance of full recovery.

This is not a foregone conclusion with any wild bird as the stress involved in being gathered up, boxed and examined can have fatal consequences in some instances. This particular barn owl appeared robust and of good condition, however, and not too obviously distressed by it’s close encounter with humans.

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On arrival at the sanctuary’s hospital the owl was settled into the rehabilitation aviaries where he was able to gather strength and exercise muscles in preparation for release back into the wild. Over the following week, it has proved to be a model patient, enjoying regular feeds and protection from predators, giving the bruising to his head chance to subside before facing the elements again.

The falconry team were able to release the owl back into its natural habitat after time spent in one of the quiet recuperation aviaries where it gained flight strength and was soon released, close to where it was originally found.

For a video of the release showing the flight of the Barn Owl in slow motion, click here

A new box for Ural Owls, Bumble and Bea

Spring is the season when the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary’s falconers are engaged in checking the condition of nest boxes and aviary accommodation which has afforded protection to members of our resident bird team from the elements throughout the harsh winter weather.

These are the birds variously used in displays, talks and school visits to inform the public about the diversity of owl and other bird of prey species and illustrate the differences, habits, habitats and conservation statuses of the various species.

Many boxes will need to be replaced to ensure effective protection is always available to the birds - some may just need augmentation with additional nesting material, to encourage some of the owls and other birds of prey to breed in the coming months. 

Should progeny result during the season, these are usually exchanged between zoos and establishments similar to our own in order to the maintain breeding bloodlines.

Last week it was the turn of Bumble and Bea, the Ural owls to receive an upgrade to their facilities.

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A new, spacious nest box was built by the falconers and erected in their aviary and Bea wasted no time in settling down inside. Close companions for many years, the pair have been known to raise young in the past, so it may transpire that a happy by product of the new nest box might be a successful breeding season for them.

Ural owls enjoy a wide distribution worldwide, from Japan and Korea in the east to Scandinavia in the west and throughout Europe and Asia.

Their preferred native habitat is open woodland and is more often found in moister areas - so ideally suited to the Suffolk climate. In the wild, the Ural owl seeks out hollow tree trunks and old raptor nests in which to lay between 2 and 4 eggs which are incubated for 27 - 34 days.

It is hoped that the warmth, seclusion and security offered by Bumble and Bea’s new nest box may imitate their naturally preferred nest sites to their added contentment! 

Spring is on the horizon...

At this time of year many birds are pairing up and getting ready for the imminent breeding season.

This year, falconers Rufus and Matt are working closely with potential breeding pairs to ensure they have the optimum environment to display this behaviour!

A variety of measures can be taken to make the birds’ surroundings more conducive to breeding, such as the location of their aviary, density of planting within, relative seclusion and size and location of nest box/nest site.

Falconer Rufus embellishes the tawny eagle nest site with suitable material.

Falconer Rufus embellishes the tawny eagle nest site with suitable material.

Mara and Sambura, the Tawny Eagles have lived together at the sanctuary for about ten years. In that time their interest in breeding has only progressed as far as some token nest building activity, suggesting that they may not yet be a fully bonded pair. For this reason Rufus and Matt decided to take steps to encourage a closer relationship between the two.

Rufus gathered a plentiful supply of material together to build a luxurious, robust eagle nest site and hopefully improve the ambience of their accommodation!

Sambura the male tawny eagle inspects the recent renovations!

Sambura the male tawny eagle inspects the recent renovations!

On close inspection, Sambura seems to approve of this innovation and the falconers will watch him and Mara closely to gauge any consequential developments in their behaviour.

That’ll do nicely, thankyou…

That’ll do nicely, thankyou…

Tawny Troubles

Tawny owls are fairly frequent visitors to the S.O.S. raptor hospital all year round. Often they are casualties from road traffic accidents; sometimes, during the winter months they are victims of harsh weather; during the breeding season, young “branchers” arrive, having fallen from their nest site.

A stunned tawny owl will recover from a traffic collision in the S.O.S. raptor hospital.

A stunned tawny owl will recover from a traffic collision in the S.O.S. raptor hospital.

This week a tawny came to us as a referral from a local veterinary practice. A member of the public had taken the bird in after rescuing it from the side of the road. The owl was wrapped in a towel for the safety of both staff and bird and carefully assessed.

Some bruising was apparent on the head, eye and wing on its right hand side - injuries consistent with a collision with a vehicle. Happily, none of the injuries were serious enough to compromise the bird in any way, so a period of rest in a secure environment, away from predators and with regular feeding, was the prescribed treatment. We expect to release this individual, fit and healthy, back to the wild in a week or so.

Although tawny owl numbers locally appear to be fairly stable, numbers have declined steadily over the last few years nationally to the point where the birds’ conservation status has recently been elevated from green to amber.

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You can download a copy of our Tawny Troubles leaflet here

As a consequence, the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary has renewed it’s efforts to support and protect this iconic owl through the nationwide distribution of a “Tawny Troubles” leaflet explaining the plight of the tawny owl population with reference to what is being done to help reverse the trend.

The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) is currently undertaking a survey to investigate the demise of tawny owls more closely. Their programme is designed to bring interested parties into contact with tawny owls, improve their knowledge of the bird’s condition and support the monitoring work undertaken by local groups like Suffolk Owl Sanctuary. Hopefully, this proactive initiative will kick-start long-term projects and ultimately contribute to increasing the breeding success of tawnies.

Aside from the rescue and rehab endeavours to return birds fit and flying free back to the wild from instances like the one above, in partnership with the Thornham Owl Project the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary helps to maintain and monitor a network of secure wild owl nest boxes suited to the nesting habits of the tawny owl.

A new tawny owl nest box is securely sited out of predators’ reach

A new tawny owl nest box is securely sited out of predators’ reach

Project founder Roger Buxton observes that there is “an urgent need to expand our knowledge of this species so that we are in the best possible position to provide advice on issues that may impact them, whether they are changes in planning policy, alterations to agri-environmental schemes, the management of our woodland estates or climate change.

Through the work of the nest box scheme and a variety of educational outreach projects, the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary offers practical support and strives to realise positive outcomes for the local tawny owl population.










Doors open on the new S.O.S. hospital for injured wild owls and other birds of prey

Just over two years ago we started raising funds to build a new raptor hospital and suite of recuperation aviaries to receive the increasing number of injured or traumatised wild owls and other birds of prey brought into Suffolk Owl Sanctuary.

Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters from across the UK and beyond, and contributions from charitable organisations and local companies, we’re pleased to say that the facility is now ‘open for business’ and thank EVERYBODY who helped us achieve this worthwhile ambition.

We’ll be pleased to show you around when you next visit us, but meantime let us take you on a tour

Click on or near each image for more details.

Best viewed in landscape format on mobile devices

Life or Death - A Day Makes A Difference

Here at S.O.S., injured or traumatised owls and a variety of other birds of prey including falcons, buzzards and kestrels are brought into us for treatment on almost a daily basis. Nearly always the intention to bring it in to us is well meaning but attempts to administer first aid beforehand and the delay this causes can prove fatal - it’s often not appreciated that in order to give each bird the best possible opportunity of life, speed is of the essence. Whenever possible, we strongly recommend bringing the creature to us as soon as you can.

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The reason is that often the full extent of the problem may not be immediately evident. In the case of the Tawny Owl above suffering damage to the eye, the need for speed is obvious. But in many case the reasons for the incapacity may be hidden. Though the bird may be quiet and still and allow you to handle it, there will be reasons for it: a bird of prey in good health is unlikely to let you get near it.

If it is still, the bird may be weak and suffering from malnutrition. It may be dehydrated. The cause of its distress may a hidden injury or symptoms of a debilitating disease. In such cases, resisting the temptation to keep it for a while and maybe try to feed it or apply first aid, may cost the bird its life.

Therefore, please make every effort to get the creature into us as soon as you can. Here at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary it will be given expert attention using specialised first aid equipment and critical care formula, will have access to experienced veterinary care and we also keep a good store of TLC on hand to help the bird ‘make it through’ wherever possible. We are on hand to give advice during the waking hours on 03456 807897 Option 5, and we’re open from 8.30am until 4.00pm in winter and 5.00pm in Summer.

Finally, here are the standard instructions for handling an injured bird:

  1. Gently throw a jumper or blanket over the injured bird to gently pick it up

  2. Put the bird into a well ventilated, darkened cardboard box - not so small that the bird will sustain further damage, but not so large that it can jump around inside. The box should preferably be lined on the bottom with another towel or, if not available, newspaper. Never use straw or sawdust and do not place water in the box. Do not cover the bird with the blanket or towel when it’s in the box for fear of it getting tangled.

  3. Do not try to feed the bird. Get the bird to the nearest bird of prey centre as soon as possible. S.O.S. is open 7 days a week from 8.30am until 4.00pm during the winter months, and until 5.00pm in summer. For emergency advice call 03456 807 897 Option 5

  4. Do not try to give first aid to the bird - although well-meaning, if incorrectly applied the traumatism of the wrong procedure could hasten the worst outcome.

  5. Always wash your hands if you have touched a bird

  6. Remember that bird of prey centres and raptor rescue organisations like S.O.S. are there to deal with birds of prey. If you’re not local to us in mid-Suffolk see this list to find one near you. Contact the RSPCA about other types of injured bird, or take it to a vet.



It's raining! Time for a bath...

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It is a rainy day at the centre today, but even if we don't enjoy this weather the birds take an opportunity for a free shower! 

Kalifi (pictured here) hopped in her bath as soon as the rains started and had a good long soak and clean.

All birds preen oils into their feathers - that stops them becoming waterlogged, and the downy feathers close to the body help to insulate and keep them warm.

However, in the rain birds will not often chose to fly as the extra weight becomes problematic and their flight becomes hindered.

That’s why on days like this we don't fly our demonstration team but give them a well deserved rest day instead.