Tucson Wildlife Center has taken in four fuzzy-looking, white Great Horned Owl nestlings in the last week.
The unusually high temperatures earlier in March, seen only in mid-May, have caused parasites to hatch two months early and attack the nestlings, forcing them to bail out of their nests to escape, said Lisa Bates, Founder and Executive Director of Tucson Wildlife Center.
“We have never seen this problem before,” Bates said. “With normal March temperatures, we assume the owls are older by the time parasites hatch and have left the nest or are able to fend off the parasites themselves.”
Three of the owls came from the Northwest side. A fourth came from an area near Sabino Canyon. One suffered a broken leg in the fall from his nest and underwent surgery to repair the damage. All four are expected to be released back to the wild.
“Ideally, we try to return them to the place they came from so the parents can continue raising them,” said Lou Rae Whitehead, Animal Care Supervisor at Tucson Wildlife Center. “We typically don’t get them when they are this young, but it is hotter earlier this year. If they are still white and fuzzy, they need to be re-nested.”
Before they are returned to their parents, the owls are treated for parasites, assessed for health
then returned to clean nests.
Anyone who finds an owl on the ground, should call Tucson Wildlife Center at 290-Wild(9453)
(The photos show the nestlings being fed by volunteers wearing ghillie suits to disguise their appearance. Volunteers wear the suits when working with wildlife so the animals do not become imprinted on or habituated to human beings)