Monday, March 16, 2015


Friday evening, I got a call from my Principal, Darby.
A large oak had broken off midway up the trunk in her neighbor Kelly's yard and deposited 2 downy Barred Owl chicks on the forest floor. The parent birds were busy monitoring the scene from branches just above the chicks.
The chicks seemed to be okay and not injured from the fall.

Darby sent 2 photos by text, one of the chicks on the ground and one with the female completely covering the chicks with her body.

Below is a photo I took when I arrived the next day.

Owl chicks

Darby asked if I would help out if needed and of course, I said yes. She had researched what to do in this situation and discovered that...
  1. You can put them back in the nest (impossible in this situation since it was on the ground).
  2. You can build a nest box and place the chicks inside it. The parents should find them and take over.
Oh, and whichever option you take, keep in mind that the owls will see you as a threat and may attack.

This was confirmed when I called Julie Zickefoose to ask for expert advice. In fact, Julie said they instinctively may go for eyes and have been known to inflict serious injury to would be rescuers.

I called Darby to share that, but she was aware of the same possibilities from her internet research.

Darby said her son and his father would build and mount an owl nest box first thing the next morning.

Would I mind being the one to climb up and place the chicks in it?

No problemo!

The spacious nest box.

I arrived at Darby's the next day, after the box was built and mounted.
On the scene were Darby and her neighbor Kelly, each wearing stylish hardhats in case of the owlpocalypse.

After talking to Julie, I decided to go with wearing my motorcycle helmet, leather jacket, and leather gloves.
At the nest tree, a very familiar giant extension ladder stretched up from the ground to just below the nest box.

What was great about this location was that this is the same tree the nest was in so we didn't need to move the chicks away from where the parents were anxiously watching over them.

Darby was a little concerned about no threshold at the entrance to the owl nest box, so we decided to place a 3 inch diameter branch across it as a barrier to chick wandering once they were placed inside.

I had some clamps in my JEEP, so we decided just to clamp the branch in place for the duration of the chick rearing time.

This required 2 trips up the ladder, but I think it was a good idea.

Suited up with GoPro mounted motorcycle helmet and leather gear, I grabbed the branch, two clamps, and a bucket of wood chips and leaf litter and began my climb.

Part one went pretty smoothly for being at the top end of a very long extension ladder that was not strapped to the tree. When the branch threshold was clamped on and the interior filled with cozy chips and leaves, I headed back down for the 2 chicks.

I planned to do this next part as quickly as possible since I anticipated squawky chicks and parent birds dive bombing me like a German Stuka.

With Darby and Kelly on alert for possible owl attacks, (both parents were observing from directly above us), I knelt down and placed the chicks in the bucket.

They clacked their bills together, but otherwise made no sound.
I think that they were just too hungry and weak from 24 hours on the ground to raise much of a fuss.

Which is probably why the parent owls never raised a talon against the offending person holding their chicks.

Up the ladder again and in a few moments both chicks were safely inside the nest box.

After that it was just relief and that feeling you get when  your team just did something good.

When the task was over, we went our separate ways, each hoping that this thing would work ... that the parents would find and accept the chicks.

The next morning, I got this text from Darby:

"Guess what! I just saw the Momma Owl in the house this morning and the Daddy Owl was close by keeping an eye on things! Yay! "

The video below is my view of things. It runs about 8 minutes.


And remember, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."



Island Rider said...

My hero!

robin andrea said...

Love this video! You did such a great job getting those baby owls into that nest. Congrats all around.

Lisa Greenbow said...

You all did a wonderful thing.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Perfectly researched, planned, geared up, built, and executed. If a bit vertiginous for the viewer. Whew!! Proud to know you all. Great big grin!

Pablo said...

The world would be a sorry place without you and long ladders.

lisa said...

Wonderful, I agree, a kindness is never wasted.

Sayre said...

So brave going up the ladder like that! Just watching that made my feet ache, but watching the chicks go into the box made my heart swell. Thank you!

I've been watching Alessondra's OKC Owl Cam ( with the Great Horned Owls. Fascinating stuff!

crybrug said...

Holy cow that is just amazing! Good job team!

Anonymous said...

FC...why, that was fabulous!


Anonymous said...

That was great FC


Gail Spratley said...


Wally Jones said...

Good on You!

That was no easy undertaking. Kudos for even taking it on. It speaks volume about your character.

It was encouraging to hear about the owl entering the nest box. Hope the kids are okay.

Mark P said...

I admire anyone who is willing to climb a high ladder under any circumstances, but even more so if it's to do a good deed.

Anonymous said...

What a great story! Glad it had a good outcome. What a brave thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Very cool!

R.Powers said...

Thanks everyone. It has been a week since the initial "chicks on the ground" call, and everything seems to be going well for the owl family.

Kelly said...

Wildlife rehab at its best!

Anonymous said...

Great video! And thanks for saving them! Hope it works.

claudia taylor said...

Raymond, saw this first on Facebook posted by the fabulous Julie Zikefoose, who then told me about your blog. Wonderful piece on this little owl family, both your narrative and the video diary. And, how awesome that Mom and Dad moved right into their custom owl box with the kids. Will be following your future postings. And, you are right about kindness....think it may be the noblest trait we can aim for. Looking forward to seeing more of your world! Claudia in Framingham, MA

David The Good from said...

This is bad to the bone - great work!

R.Powers said...

Thanks for all the comments!
AWESOME NEWS TONIGHT! DARBY sent me photos of the baby owls sitting on the nest box. Post to follow!!!!