Owl’s well that ends well: Great horned owl family reunited

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JENNIE McKEON @JennieMnwfdn

DESTIN —  A family of great horned owls has been reunited, thanks to efforts from Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge and volunteers.

It all started on Jan. 19 when the refuge received a phone call from maintainence workers who were refurbishing the Destin water tower and came across two baby great horned owls in a nest 100 feet in the air.

The owls were taken to the refuge, and after an examination it was decided that they were healthy enough to be renested.

“We wanted to keep the babies in their original habitat, so we started knocking on doors in the vicinity of the water tower,” said Shelby Proie, a wildlife technician at the refuge.

The refuge found willing participants who not only lived close to the water tower, but had the tallest tree available for an artificial nest. Using a white laundry basket and pine straw, the refuge made a nest and strapped it to the tree Jan. 21. They also placed a trap camera to help survey the progress.

“The first night there was not a lot of activity, but you could hear the mom and dad owls hooting,” Prioe said. “We checked the nest daily and weighed the babies. If they lost weight, we’d give them some fluids.”

By day four, the refuge’s staff noticed talon prints left by the mother owl. The residents of the home have been keeping the refuge updated with photos and videos of the mother using the nest and bringing food to the babies.

“It was a successful renesting,” Proie said. “Owls, like all raptors, are pretty great moms. You generally see an 80 percent success rate with renesting.”

This is a busy time of year for renesting birds. Having community support, such as the residents who gave the refuge access to their backyard, is essential to happy endings.

“We are super lucky,” Proie said. “It’s one of the most rewarding things to see babies reunited with their parents.”

Proie said she hopes people will be inspired to help with more renesting efforts. Later in Februrary, the refuge will establish a renesting team, open to any current or new volunteers. People can sign up for a volunteer orientation at emeraldcoastwildliferefuge.org.

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