Win some...

Fighting the Good Fight

It’s a sad fact that a large percentage of the injured birds of prey that are brought to us here at the Sanctuary have been the victims of some kind of Road Traffic Accident (RTA). Unfortunately, birds have no concept of what a car is or the threat it poses to them, which is why those annoying pigeons that stay in the road until the very last second, when you’re sure you’re going to mangle them, are not actually playing chicken. They really don’t know you’re coming until you’re amost there!

Also, in a recent blog we considered the veracity of the age old myth ‘wise old owl’. Unfortunately, an owl hunting for a nice juicy vole right across your driving path only has the right amount of brainpower to follow its goal. It can’t reason that maybe it should steer around an oncoming object to avoid a collision. Likewise, if it happens to be devouring a catch right by the side of the road it has no understanding that this may not be the safest place to eat your breakfast.

Similarly, the size of an owl often belies its weight - the bird below weighs only a few ounces, despite it fairly bulky appearance. So should a bird happen to be flying across the road at a time when a large or fast vehicle is passing, though it may not actually be hit, the backdraft is often sufficient to crash the bird into the road, either concussing it or damaging it and sometimes incapacitating it so that it is run over by following traffic.

Over the last few days we have had two Tawny Owls brought in to the Hospital, both of which were likely victims of RTAs. The first had clearly been hit by a car: close examination by Conservation Officer Dean revealed that it was missing some tail feathers, had a slightly dilated eye and a small amount of blood in the ears under the skin. The owl was also rather thin, but fortunately there appeared to be no damage to any of its extremities, so we’re of the opinion that it has a good chance of making a full recovery.

This RTA victim will be housed in a secluded recuperation aviary
until it’s fit enough to be released back to the wild

The Tawny is now in one of our rehabilitation aviaries, where it will have a chance to rest and recuperate and to build up its weight and strength again. The rehabilitation aviaries are specifically designed to allow the falconers to administer the necessary TLC whilst having the minimal amount of contact with the bird. It is vitally important that a wild bird doesn’t begin to imprint and become too reliant on human beings, thus making its return to the wild that much harder.

Our second Tawny Owl was brought in by a chap who found it on the side of the road. Having kept it covered so that it was quiet and calm, he then brought it in to the Sanctuary, where Andy had a good look at it and almost immediately came to the conclusion it was another RTA victim The poor thing had a severely broken right wing and Andy was afraid that the prognosis didn’t look good.

Unfortunately, a trip to the vet confirmed our worst fears; there was nothing that could be done to put the Tawny Owl to rights and it was humanely put to sleep. Although it’s always very sad when this happens, whatever the diagnosis for an injured bird may be, its welfare and estimated quality of life are always the falconers’ top priorities for consideration.