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No one can say Karen Lyall and her neighbors don’t give a hoot.
On Sunday, they came upon a baby Great Horned Owl that had fallen from a nest in a tall South Valley cottonwood tree near the bosque. They are now trying to reunite the owlet with its nearby parents.
“The owlet was about 4 or 5 weeks old and was just lying on the ground, so we called Wildlife Rescue Inc. of New Mexico and they advised us to bring it in because it had been lying on the ground in the sun and was probably dehydrated,” Lyall said.
She and her neighbors have been observing the owls in the area for years. Normally, when a baby owl falls from a nest, the owl parents will continue to feed the baby on the ground, she said. “The thing is, we couldn’t leave the owlet on the ground because it was in a park area where people walk dogs and coyotes have been seen.”
After an overnight stay with the wildlife rescue folks, the owlet seemed to be doing just fine, so it was decided the little critter should be reintroduced into the nest. Problem was, the nest was 50 feet up in the cottonwood and Lyall had only a 20-foot ladder. Instead, the neighbors were instructed to create a temporary nest out of a laundry basket, which was then secured to the safest spot to which they had access – inside the crook of a tree adjacent to the cottonwood where the nest was located.
“Monday night, the mother and father were both hooting and flying around in the park, but we never saw them going over to the baby to feed it, and that’s what we’re waiting for,” Lyall said.
What they didn’t initially realize was that they had placed the artificial nest a mere 20-30 feet away from a high pole-mounted light that illuminates the nest after dark. Because Great Horned Owls are nocturnal, she said, it may be inhibiting the parents’ feeding routines.
Lyall said she and her neighbors have contacted city officials in an attempt to get the light turned off temporarily.
Great Horned Owls, who often mate for life, typically don’t build nests, preferring to be squatters in nests already constructed by other bird species.
“The nest that the baby fell from, we think is older and has been disintegrating,” and likely the reason that, two weeks earlier, another baby owl tumbled from the nest during a wind storm. Unfortunately, that owlet did not survive the fall, she said.
That’s also why the wildlife rescue folks were concerned. “They thought if we didn’t get that baby back near the mom soon, that the mom might leave,” Lyall said. “And if that happens, and (it) still could happen, then wildlife rescue will take the baby back, rehabilitate it and maybe release it when it’s older. Ideally, you want the owlet back with the parents.”
Although that reunion hasn’t yet taken place, Lyall said, “the owlet is fine and the mother is still close by, and that’s a good thing – she knows her baby is there.”