Concerning Screech Owls

Screech Owls are the Napoleons of the owl world. Despite their tiny size, they are fearsome predators in the wild. And captive screeches, held for educational purposes, are never truly tamed, and relish every opportunity to pierce their human handler’s tender digits. Despite this, or because of it, they are many people’s favorite owl.

Although they can be quite fierce, Screech Owls, when confused or alarmed, can go into a deeply still state of almost fainting when approached. We call it “going to their happy place”, where they ignore all outside stimulus. This happened to me thrice recently.

The first owl flew into our work vehicle and stunned itself silly. Luckily, we are trained veterinary professionals, and the little owl was whisked to the clinic, radiographed, given fluids, and examined thoroughly. Within 2 hours, the screech seemed unchanged, but knowing the “freeze” mode they go into, we elected to try for a release. And sure enough, once tossed gently into air, he remembered his wings quickly and flew off. He was spotted several more times during the year, so we know he made a full recovery.

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The second was “kidnapped” by a couple of other staff members. They saw him swoop at a sparrow, and when he missed, he stayed on the ground. Wanting to help, they scooped him up into the car, where he promptly sat on the back of the passenger seat as though he had been traveling thusly all his life. Again, we examined him, and found nothing wrong. We tasked his erstwhile rescuers with returning him to exactly to where they found him, and he promptly made his escape.

The third screech was mine alone; I found him crumpled next to a plexiglass exhibit wall, the apparent victim of a window strike. But after I touched him gently, he roused, glared at me, and took off. So please, if you find a “hurt” owl, give it a few moments, and encourage it to leave under its own power. If you suspect greater injury, a local wildlife rehabilitator can heal them for return to the wild, where they belong.

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