Monday, March 24, 2008

Starving Owl?


Eastern Screech Owl © Mike McDowell

I received the following question as a comment to a past blog entry:

I found this site and have a quick question. I reside in central New Hampshire and many have been talking about this hard winter for the owls. We have an owl that has been working our yard for 2 months and it appears it may be rather weak and very hungry. Our area has had an unusual amount of snow and the pack is at least 3-4 feet. Should we offer any food to this hungry bird, and if so, what should we offer. I am not looking to offer up mice simply a meal or two to help its survival. Comments welcome. By the way, this is something we do not normally do. The poor bird is scoping out the bird feeder all day and night.

Thanks for any assistance.

Bert

My reply:

It would be helpful to know what species of owl this is. My first impression is that the bird is not starving, but has found a spot where food is accessible and is doing as well as it can under the circumstances. The fact that it's been there for two months indicates the bird is eating and surviving. If you feel that there is something wrong with the owl (I don't have enough information to make that determination) consider contacting a licensed wildlife rehabilitator from your area. They would be able to monitor the owl and determine if it would benefit from intervening and/or providing it food. Given all the information I have, I would suggest leaving the owl alone but continue to watch its behavior.

I also forwarded the question to Laura Erickson. Here's her response:

I wouldn't feed it--if it's been hanging around for that long, it's obviously finding something. It also seems important to know what species it is--the most likely possibilities are Boreal, Saw-whet, and Barred as far as spending a lot of time near feeders. If they do feed it, they should absolutely NOT feed it pet store mice--the risk of salmonella is way too high. And I'd be reluctant to feed it House Mice, if they live in an area where they get them indoors--again, that's because of the risk of disease. The ONLY mice to offer a wild owl are wild, FRESH mice trapped outdoors, or if they're sure they're native species (which most likely spend most or much of their time outdoors, with a more natural diet), ones trapped indoors.

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