Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tula the owl still refusing to eat

More than two weeks after I rescued Tula the barn owl, she is still refusing to feed herself. Whatever food I put in her cage she just ignores it. So almost every evening I have to force-feed her. My sister helped once or twice, when she visited. Here she is feeding her mincemeat with tweezers.

She also gave her water through a syringe, as there is no evidence that she drinks by herself from her water bowl.

A week later I am still having to force food into Tula's mouth almost every night. Some nights I just put food in her cage, but she always ignores it. After forcing her to swallow a mouthful of mincemeat she squints up her eyes and appears to either be in great pain or asleep. It seems to be very exhausting for her to swallow. I just cannot work out what is wrong with her. But amazingly she is still alive! She is quite weak and light so I am very hesitant to release her, especially without knowing what the problem is. If only she could tell me...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Tula the owl, continued

A week after rescuing Tula the owl, she was still refusing to eat anything. I tried dead mice, small fish and mincemeat, but she showed no interest at all.

During the day she just sleeps.

And at night she desperately tries to get to get out of the cage.

I thought of releasing her, but she still shows some sign of damage to one eye, and when I picked her up she felt very light.

So two days ago I started force-feeding her with mincemeat. I managed to get some meat into her mouth, which she eventually swallowed, although she was far more interesting in attacking my hand with her sharp beak!

Yesterday I forced some more food into her, which she reluctantly swallowed. She seemed a bit weaker, although still vicious with her claws!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tula the barn owl

Tula is a another barn owl that I received on 3rd July 2014. She was found on the ground with blood on her beak and apparently unable to fly. I couldn’t find any other injuries, but she was squinting her eyes, implying she was in pain. I don't actually know what sex it is but have just decided to call her a "she".

I put her in my owl recovery cage and let her settle down.

The next day I had my sister examine her for broken bones, as she has experience in this. She did not find any and suggested she might be a young owl, not yet able to fly. It is possible that she was knocked out of a nest or off a perch by people throwing stones at her. Owls do not have a good reputation here – they are associated with witchcraft and death, so are not treated well. Tula does not look very young, as she has no signs of the downy feathers that the babies have. But perhaps she has not learnt to fly yet.
On the second night I offered her a dead mouse for dinner, but she showed no interest. So I tried cutting it up, since young owls often have their food cut up for them by their mothers or older siblings. She still did not touch it.
So the next night I offered her some small fish together with another small mouse. In the morning I found the dead mouse in a different place but not eaten.
Three days after being rescued, Tula owl appears to be feeling a bit better and is becoming quite defensive every time I come near the cage, puffing up to look bigger than she really is.

Baby owls usually make a drawn out hissing sound, “shhhhhh”, through most of the night, but this one is very quiet. That's why I called her Tula, which means "quiet". Also because her quietness makes it difficult for me to find out what is wrong with her - if only she could tell me. She does have a habit of bowing her head right down and then shaking it from side to side, after her impressive "look how big and scary I am" display. I am not sure exactly what it means, but it appears to be part of the threat display. You can see it in this video clip. It's actually quite funny.

On the fourth day, for the first time, Tula left the safety of her box in the evening and moved out into the open part of the cage to look around. I have given her another small mouse in the hope that she will eat.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Goodbye Amigo

This morning I checked on Amigo the owl and found he was not in the cage.  Then I noticed the catch on the door was open.  In great concern I searched the whole garden but could not find him. 

I am very upset and puzzled.  It is a complete mystery.  I always close the catch after feeding him.  I can not understand how it was left open.  Is it possible a stranger walked into the yard and opened the catch to let him out?  Or was it left open by mistake when someone checked on him?

Whatever the reason, I am worried about Amigo’s chances of survival.  With a barely healed broken wing and one blind eye, coupled with his lack of exercise for the last two and a half weeks and his refusal to feed on his own, I think his survival chances in the wild are slim.  Added to these problems, white-faced owls do not normally occur in town, so he will be unlikely to find any of his kind.  However, I just have to hope for the best and that he will make it somehow.

Goodbye, my dear and beautiful friend Amigo... 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Update on Amigo the owl

Amigo the white-faced owl is still not eating on his own, so I have to push food into his mouth every evening.  He eats a mixture of minced beef, kapenta fish and pieces of mouse that I cut up for him.  I have not managed to get him to swallow a whole one.  Perhaps they are too big for him.

 Feeding time

 Trying to keep cool

On 26th October Amigo managed to remove his cardboard wing splint.  I found it lying in the cage.  So the next day I had my sister come and check on his wing.  After examination she said the bone seemed to be healing, so she suggested leaving the splint off.

Meanwhile, his injured left eye has begun to shrink, so he may not recover his sight in that eye as I had hoped.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Amigo's story continued

Amigo the White-faced Owl is still alive, amazingly, after being hit by a car a week ago.  He has been rather inactive, probably still suffering from concussion.  One day I found him covered in ants because he had just been sitting still the whole day.
I almost thought he was completely blind because he hardly responded to any movement, only sound and touch.  But the next day he was responding, though slowly.  I just hope he does not have permanent brain damage.
Doesn't he look cute here, sitting on my hand (which, luckily for me, was protected with an oven glove at the time!)

I started him on kapenta (small fish), which he seems to like.  I alternate this with minced beef.  He is not feeding by himself yet, I have to push the food into his mouth and then he swallows willingly.  He is eating a good amount – the equivalent of one or two mice a day, which is a good sign.
Yesterday he came out of his box for the first time and was looking much livelier.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Amigo's Story

Three days ago I acquired a white-faced owl.  It had been hit by a car the night before and ended up on the bonnet, rather dazed.  On examination it was found to have an injured left eye and a broken wing. 

It did not eat anything the first night.  I called it Amigo, after the Amigo Crisps box that it came in.  Amigo happens to mean "friend" in Spanish, which is a nice name for my new friend.

The following day my sister helped to put a cardboard splint on its broken wing.  That night I force-fed it with mincemeat.

Managed to force-feed Amigo again last night.  He is not looking too happy, but is still alive, and did manage to eat a fair amount, which is a hopeful sign.  I have no idea if he has any internal injuries from the accident.  Only time will tell.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Releasing Fighter the Owl

I have now had Fighter the Barn Owl for two and a half months.  In spite of being found with a severely broken wing and an injured leg, he appears to have made a full recovery.

A few days ago I noticed him making strange hissing and whining sounds that I had not heard before, and he seemed quite restless.  So this evening (6th September) I decided to release him.  I opened the top door of the cage and after looking round curiously for a while he came out.

He flew laboriously and not very far, soon landing on the ground.  I walked over to him and he flew off again, failing to reach any tree and landing on the ground again.  So at least I know he can fly that high when he tries.  After that I saw him fly back and forth between the roof and some large trees.  A bit worrying was the neighbour’s cat hunched and alert on the ground, waiting to see if it would get tired and come down to the ground again.

On the next two attempts he flew into fences.  I was very concerned by now that he was not really strong enough to fly far enough or fast enough to survive for long.  I was particularly concerned that he might land in a neighbouring garden, because some of my neighbours are particularly averse to owls and would do anything to kill them.  So I kept approaching his landing place to try and either re-catch him or at least steer him away from neighbouring gardens.  Then finally he flew off and I could not follow where he had gone.  I searched the whole back garden, both on the ground and in the trees, but there was no trace.  Worried and very concerned for his future I gave up the search.  No sooner had I gone back in the house than one of the kids heard scratching noises on the roof.  I rushed outside to find him sitting on the roof of the house, quite a distance from where I had last seen him.  

I have left some food in his cage with the door open, just in case he gets hungry before he manages to find his own food.

I am very concerned for Fighter’s future, but against all odds he has made it this far and is, like Harry Potter, "the boy who lived" (although I don't actually know if he is male or female).  I sincerely hope he will survive his new life in the wild and that he will really prove to be one of my "success stories".

Fighter the owl recovers

2nd September 2012
During the past month Fighter has been gradually healing and getting stronger.  By the end of August his wing looked quite back to normal and his limp seemed to have gone.  He was getting quite restless and constantly trying to get out of the cage.  I decided to keep him just a bit longer to make sure he was fully recovered.

Update on Fighter the Barn Owl

I gave fighter this name because he has fought to survive, unlike many injured birds that I have tried to save.  In my last post I mentioned that Fighter, after two-and-a-half weeks, had finally started eating out of my hand voluntarily, instead of being force-fed. Soon Fighter was feeding directly from a plate, and not long after I started feeding him on small dead mice.

On the 14th of July, after I had had Fighter for three weeks, my sister said it was time to remove the splint.  She said that by this time the bone had either healed or was not going to heal.  So with a pair of scissors and fingers, she carefully removed the duct tape and cardboard that had been supporting the bone.

She said as far as she could tell, the bone appeared to have healed.  But only time would tell.  Fighter was still dragging his injured wing, but she said that the muscles would take time to get strong again.

Fighter the barn owl

Fighter, the barn owl, was found outside the Livingstone Museum on the morning of 23rd June.  He had a broken wing and could not fly.  One of the staff brought him inside, and I later came and rescued him.  On examination his left upper wing bone was found to be rather badly broken.  With my sister’s help we fixed him up with a cardboard splint, held on with duct tape.  He appeared to be limping a bit but we could not see any obvious injury to his legs.  Luckily I had a cage ready that I keep for injured and abandoned birds that need attention.  I put some water in the cage but decided not to try feeding it until it had settled down.  My experience with injured birds is they will not feed the first day or two after being put into captivity.

The next day I noticed he was not standing on his right leg, but holding it up all the time.  I examined it and thought it felt broken, but was not sure.  I decided to leave it, since the owl was still in some shock at being held captive and was obviously still in a lot of pain, so I did not want to handle it too much.  That evening I tried feeding him with some mincemeat.  He would not feed willingly so I forced some into his mouth, which he then swallowed.  Every day I tried to get him to feed by itself, but he would not.  I even tried him on dead mice, but he would not show any interest.  So I had to go on force-feeding him.  I would shove a small mouse down his throat and he would then swallow, sometimes leaving the tail hanging out for a while.

In the cage is a little house that Fighter sleeps in during the day.  In the evenings he comes out and looks around.

For the next two weeks I would force-feed him most evenings.  It was not easy, as holding an owl with a broken wing and probably a broken leg without hurting it is not easy.  Added to this was the fact that he was very scared of being handled, so panicked every time I came near.  For the first few days he seemed quite weak and in pain, and I did not have much hope of him surviving.  I have had very little success with injured adult birds.  However, as the days went by he began gaining strength and began to attack me when tried to get hold of him for his daily feed.  So I thought I would let him feed himself and again tried putting mincemeat or dead mice in front of him in the cage.  The next morning it would be untouched.

After I had had him for about two weeks, one day I found Fighter on the top shelf of the cage for the first time.  I did not know if he had flown up there or climbed up the netting.  But over the next few days I saw him doing both.  The broken wing is very lop-sided with the splint on it, but he can still flap around quite a lot.  This was a good sign.  But still he was not eating by himself and fought every time against being force-fed.

I was really wondering what the best option was.  Firstly, he had not died in two weeks, so there was a good chance of him surviving.  But he would not feed himself and viciously resented being held and force-fed.  So what should I do?  I tried starving him for a day or two.  That did not work.  But then finally, a few days later, when I was really at my wit’s end about what to do, I went to feed him, holding his good wing in one hand and coving up his sharp, attacking claws with an oven glove, I started feeding him.  Finally he calmed down and began to take the food from my hand, for the first time.  I was so relieved, because it was a first step towards independence.  The next day I did the same and again he took the food (mincemeat) from my hand.

12 July 2012 
Today I mixed some kapenta (small fish) in with the mincemeat and put it on a plate.  The moment I came near he climbed up the side of the cage and flapped about.  So I had to catch him, but when I touched the food to his beak he soon calmed down and began eating out of my hand again.  Eventually I was able to completely let go of him and he went on eating from my hand, just above the plate.

It is encouraging, firstly that Fighter has survived more than two weeks in captivity with two rather badly injured limbs, and secondly, that he is finally learning to feed himself and getting more used to being handled.  I hope that in the next few days he will learn to feed directly from the plate and that soon he will also take dead mice by himself.  He appears to be in less pain and is getting more active every day.  Unfortunately it may take some time for his bones to heal.  But if they do heal well, hopefully he can eventually be set free and live the rest of his life out in the wild.

Update on doves

I have not updated this blog for quite a while.  Unfortunately the two little doves I last wrote about did not survive.  They were doing so well but then one day they just got sick and died soon after.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Pair of Doves

Just over a week ago, on 16th May, I received a pair of baby doves to look after. They had been delivered to my Sister’s house on her farm the day before. They had either fallen out of a nest or been taken out by some little boys.

They were tiny. They were just beginning to grow feathers, but were mostly just covered in furry yellow down. I took one look at their beaks, with big bulges at the nostrils, and decided they must be doves. I did not know which type, but knew they must be a lot smaller than domestic pigeons, having raised one a year ago, which was huge.

My sister had started feeding them on chicken food (broiler starter crumbles) soaked in water, which she says is excellent food for baby birds. She asked if I would like to take them on and I said I would love to. I have raised wild doves and domestic pigeons before and it is great fun. Seed eaters are so much easier to look after than insect eaters. They also tend to be quite tame.
We first started feeding them by hand. Having made a paste with the chicken food and water, we held it between the fingers and the chicks pecked it out of our hands. Pigeons and doves naturally take food out of their mother’s mouths, unlike some other baby birds that just hold their mouths wide open for the mother to drop the food in.

I soon resorted to a method we previously used on a pigeon, using a plastic syringe, which is much easier and less messy. I cut the end off a 2ml syringe, so that it becomes a tube of equal diameter all the way along. Then suck the food paste up and it serves as a mother dove’s beak. The baby bird pushes its beak into the end of the syringe and starts gulping the food down.

I feed the birds three times a day – about 10-11 syringe-fulls at a time. My children help me, as it is hard work feeding twins! One baby is slightly bigger than the other. We do not know if this is because one is greedier than the other.

The baby birds live in a tiny cardboard box, lined with old rags, which serves as their nest. This is put, together with more cloths and two hot-water bottles, inside a plastic shopping basket. I keep the lid on just in case of cats. They are very quiet, but usually start calling gently around feeding time – a very soft “chwee, chwee”. When I get them out they get all excited and start feeling all around with their beaks for the food. I change the hot water bottles after feeding them. I also change their “nappy/diaper” (the cloth they sit on) after each feed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


25th May
The last part of the barn owl story:

On the evening of 25th May the owls were not on top of the cage when I came to feed them. So I searched the garden and found them sitting together in the fork of a large tree. The older one was tenderly grooming the younger one. They would not come immediately for food but I left the food on the cage and when I checked some hours later they were there.
Unfortunately, by this time the cats had worked out the routine and knew that there was meat on top of the owl cage every evening, so they would lie in wait and then scare off the owls to get the meat. So I had to find another place to feed them. I put the food on top of the children’s climbing frame under a big tree, and they would come down to get it each evening.

After a few days the older owl stopped coming for food, so I assumed it had learnt how to hunt by itself. Then a few days later the younger one, which was looking much more grown up by now, also stopped coming for food.

I can only hope that it learnt how to find its own food and became independent, and that I helped it in that path to independence.

It was a joy and a great learning experience to look after this pair of barn owls. I watched them work their way to freedom and independence, and I hope that they are now happily living somewhere around my neighbourhood and doing their part to keep the rat population down.

Friday, November 21, 2008


The continued story of two barn owls...
21st May
After a week of being in the cage, the older owl began to get restless, and since there was obviously nothing wrong with it and the baby could now look after itself, I decided to release it. I wanted to give it the option of coming back to the baby if it wanted to, so I just opened up the upper part of one side of the cage. It soon discovered the hole and was out exploring its new surroundings.

I left the cage open in case it wanted to return to the baby later.

But to my surprise, by morning the baby was gone too. I did not think it could fly so was at first worried that perhaps a cat had got in and eaten it. But there was no sign of feathers or a feast having taken place, so I hoped for the best, but worried the whole day about what would become of it, as it was still so young.

The next evening when I went out in the garden I was pleasantly surprised by a loud “shhhhhh, shhhhhh, shhhhhh”. I tracked it down and found the baby owl sitting on the top of a kind of stepladder, with the older owl perched just above it. I later found out it had got there by hopping up the steps, one at a time, as it could not yet fly. I still don’t know where it had spent the day.
For its own safety, I caught it again and put it back in the cage, leaving the older one out, as it seemed quite independent.

I put food in the cage for the baby, and later I found the bigger owl on top of the cage looking down at the baby and trying desperately to find the way in. I first thought it was worried about the baby and wanted to care for it. But it soon became obvious that its main interest was the meat I had put in the cage. So I opened up the netting at the top of the cage and closed the previous opening I had made at the side.

By morning the larger owl was gone again but the young one was still there. In the evening I put some meat in again. Soon the older owl was back, after the meat. The next morning I found the young owl sitting on top of the cage. It had found its way out the hole at the top. It stayed there all day. I decided to put food on top of the cage that night, and the older one was back again at the usual time.
I went on putting food out each night on top of the cage and both owls would be there, the young one remaining on the cage by day, the older one flying off somewhere and coming back each night.