Just released by the Juneau Raptor Center: 'Fireside'

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2010

Name: "Fireside"

Editor's note: A few months ago the Outdoors section featured story of a barred owl rescued by a few good Samaritans and cared for by volunteers at the Juneau Raptor Center. The owl has since recovered and overcome a few physical hardships. This is the rest of the story.

Type of bird: Barred owl (Strix varia).

What happened: On Feb. 6, an owl was rescued on Glacier Highway after not moving when a car approached. Based on the location of the owl when it was found, rescuers guessed the bird had been hit by a car.

Injuries: Trauma to the head and an eye injury. An x-ray revealed no broken bones.

Care: Treatment began with hand feedings and close observation. As of August, Fireside had made quite a turnaround, according to volunteers. Caretakers reported that the bird had finally begun acting like a "wild" owl in the large outdoor enclosure by "clacking" his mouth at anyone who approached too close. The owl's appetite had increased heartily and he had demonstrated that he could maneuver effectively in the air to catch and kill live prey.

Release: As of Nov. 5 it was determined that although the owl is still blind in one eye, experts said Fireside would be able to hunt and survive in the wild. Fireside was banded with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service numbered identification tag and taken to Outer Point for release. According to volunteers, once released he flew up into a nearby hemlock tree and sat among the branches before hopping onto a bigger branch closer to the trunk. When the JRC volunteers left, he was still studying everything around him intently.

More about the barred owl: Barred owls have been known to live up to 23 years in captivity and 10 years in the wild. Most deaths often related to humans are a result of shootings, roadkills and other such situations. Great horned owls, aside from humans, are their only natural enemy. The barred owl prefers deep, moist forests, wooded swamps and woodlands near waterways. Territories are between 213 to 903 acres. When it comes to hunting, a barred owl uses a perch, from where it dives upon its prey. Voles are its main prey, followed by shrews and mice. Other mammals include rats, squirrels, young rabbits, bats, moles, opossums, mink and small weasels. Birds are taken occasionally, including woodpeckers, grouse, quail, jays, blackbirds and pigeons. They also eats small fish, turtles, frogs, snakes, lizards, crayfish, scorpions, beetles, crickets and grasshoppers.

• For more on current rescues and releases at the Juneau Raptor Center, go online to juneauraptorcenter.org. To report an injured bird call the message phone for the JRC, 586-8393; emergency pager, 790-5424.

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