A Tawny Owl with 3 Lives!

As regular readers will know, the doors of Suffolk Owl Sanctuary are open eight hours a day, seven days a week and 52 weeks of the year to receive injured wild owls and other birds of prey.

Every season of the year brings its own specific casualties from baby owls falling from nests in the Spring to mature birds suffering the privations of harsh weather in Winter. Interspersed with these anticipated casualties, are always a number of unpredictable cases!

One recent admission which took us by surprise was that of a Tawny Owl involved in a road traffic accident. Not a rare occurrence in itself, as the speed and huge volume of traffic on today’s roads can cause major problems for wildlife in general and birds in particular. Lightweight birds hunting close to grass verges can easily be sucked into the wake of passing cars and lorries, causing many to be struck a glancing blow and stunned.

This particular owl, however, had been hit once by a car and whilst lying in the road, driven over again, by a following vehicle.  Amazingly, the bird suffered no major internal injuries but was understandably stunned and dazed! 

On arrival at the raptor hospital, the patient was treated for shock and settled into a quiet, secluded rehabilitation aviary in order to regain it’s faculties and gather strength. After three days of good food, peaceful surroundings and protection from predators, the Tawny was ready to face the rigours of life in the wild once again. This extremely lucky owl was then successfully released back into the wild - well away from traffic - to, hopefully, live a long and productive life!

After a few days of recuperation, this VERY lucky Tawny Owl is returned to his home range.

It is estimated that a staggering 3,000 to 5,000 young Barn Owls are killed on Britain’s roads annually. Add to this many Tawny and Little Owl deaths and the magnitude of roadside owl fatalities  quickly becomes apparent.

Young owls are more vulnerable to the potential risks of high speed vehicles, as they move farther afield than their mature parent birds to hunt.  The latter remain within their established home range and if this does not contain a major road, it is unlikely that they will come into contact with dangerous volumes of traffic.

In some parts of the U.K., planting schemes have been introduced in an attempt to reduce numbers of bird fatalities. Tree screens have been planted on both sides of major roads, forcing low hunting owls to fly up high and over the top of traffic. Similarly, grass cutting schedules have been abandoned and grass verges have allowed to grow and develop into tall scrub areas, elevating the native bird population above the danger zone.

It may be pertinent to state here that whilst we would always encourage Good Samaritans to gather up road traffic casualties when possible, this should only be attempted in circumstances which are SAFE and LEGAL!