Baby barn owls survive accidental road trip

The two owlets being fed with an adult owl puppet beside them
When a hay truck accidentally loaded a nest of hatching owl eggs, Wild Friends staff feared the babies wouldn’t survive. Then something amazing happened.
By Sarah Thornton

It was a race against time when the staff at Wild Friends, Best Friends’ state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitation and education center, got a call about a nest of barn owl eggs found in a hay truck. The eggs had started to hatch, with one gangly little owlet already out of the shell. Mama owl was also in the truck, though she’d left the nest, hiding elsewhere in the hay.

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By the time Wild Friends’ caregivers Lauren Ross and Lindsey Edwards arrived on the scene, another owl had hatched — but mom was still tucked away, trying to wrangle a loose egg and stay out of sight. She hadn’t been sitting on the nest in several hours, and the two newly hatched babies were apparently lifeless. Lauren and Lindsey collected the displaced family, nest and all, and though it seemed too late to save any but the scared and stressed mama, Lindsey cradled the unresponsive owlets to her chest as they returned to the Sanctuary.

The first half of the drive was somber, with no signs of life from the babies — until one moved, just barely. It was enough to catch Lindsey’s attention. Then the other owlet made a tiny peep. They were still alive!

[Bringing up orphaned barn owls]

The whole ordeal proved too stressful for the mama owl, and she did not return to her nest even when given time to settle in at Wild Friends. So she was returned to her barn, and the surviving owlets are being hand-reared until they’re strong enough to join her.

For little birds who’d shown no signs of life at first, they’re full of spunk a few months on. They’re not fooled by the owl puppet used at mealtimes, but they still screech at people — a good sign for keeping the babies wild. Soon, it will be time for these survivors from the get-go to move into a big aviary and start lessons on fending for themselves in the great outdoors.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2024 issue of Best Friends magazine. Want more good news? Become a member and get stories like this six times a year.

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