During the Spring months, the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary’s raptor hospital becomes a melting pot of casualties! From road traffic accidents, to chimney falls, to window crashes, a whole diversity of injuries needing attention are regularly presented to the hospital staff.
Outweighing the numbers of all these cases, however, are the large numbers of baby owls needing assistance early in life. Most have fallen from nests and are often found by individuals walking their dogs.
A case of quintuplets arriving this morning had a slightly different tale to tell and the brood instantly placed added pressure on the hospital facilities! A builder arrived as the sanctuary opened with the five tiny Little Owl chicks which had unfortunately been disturbed during a barn renovation on a local farm.
Workers had removed the roof from the barn whilst the mother of the brood was absent, exposing her nest of young to the elements.
The quick thinking gentleman immediately stepped in to protect the babies from further distress or injury and brought them straight down to us. The quins were assessed in the hospital and found to be extremely healthy and well fed - their mother had done a great job looking after them so far and the sanctuary staff were happy to step in to continue supporting this thriving family!
Estimated to be about two weeks old, the babies, though robust, were still quite vulnerable so were immediately placed into a brooder. This will ensure that they enjoy an environment free from draughts and with consistent temperature until they become accustomed to life without a large fluffy mum to keep them warm! True to owl instincts, the quins all displayed voracious appetites and after wolfing down a sizeable meal, snuggled up together to rest.
It is hoped that at about four weeks of age - once eating independently and gaining mature plumage - this owl family will be removed to a specially selected, isolated location to begin the “hacking back” process.
This means that they will reside in a “hack box”, offering protection from predators but with the freedom to come and go at will. During this period they will also be supported with a regular food supply, whilst gaining the hunting skills necessary for survival in the wild.
Normally we would return them to the place from which they were found, but will not do so on this occasion because of all the fuss and kerfuffle at the building site.
We hope to update this story soon with an account of the Little Owl family’s successful reintegration into the Suffolk countryside.
It may be pertinent to point out in this context that, in Britain it is illegal to knowingly disturb the nest of a bird of prey without a valid disturbance licence. Accidental disturbances, as in this case, do unfortunately happen from time to time, however, intentional disturbance is a prosecutable offence carrying a hefty fine.