Hootie had a Headache


By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate

On the evening of November 26, Danny Barr was walking home near dusk from an evening hunt when he stepped over what he believed to be a pile of leaves.  Upon further investigation, he realized it was a small Eastern Screech owl that didn’t look to be in good health.

Just prior to taking flight

Having rescued an owl before, Barr knew exactly what to do.  With gloved hands, he carefully picked up the owl and cradled it in his hands back to his home where he and wife Marie placed him in a softly lined box.

The Barr’s then called the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, located in Morgantown,  where they specialize in rehabilitating birds of our area.  Their main goal is to rehabilitate with as little intervention as possible to increase the bird’s chances of being returned to the wild.  In this particular owl’s case, they determined via x-ray he/she suffered from head trauma, most likely from being hit by a vehicle.  In order to tell the age or gender of this breed of owl blood work would need to be examined, which is more human contact than they prefer for those with a high probability of returning to the wild.  For those with more significant injuries requiring more hands on rehabilitation and cannot be safely returned to their natural habitat, these birds are transferred to the nearest Discovery Center located at Deep Creek Lake State Park near Swanton, Md.

Barr is an avid bird watcher and had a field guide that explained the characteristics of the Eastern Screech Owl.  These birds come in two colors known as the red morph or gray morph and average eight to ten inches tall.  This particular bird was a red morph.  This breed is fairly common in a broad range of locations in eastern North America and is nocturnal feasting on a wide variety of smaller prey.  Contrary to its’ name, this owl does not screech, but rather has a “mournful whinny” familiar to most people.

Since this bird was suitable to be released, the Barr’s were given the opportunity to pick up the bird and release near the location it was found.  “It is recommended to release the owl on their home range close to dark”, explained D. Barr.  When the aviation center determined this little one was able to sufficiently care for itself in the wilderness, they contacted the Barr’s and gave them the opportunity to reunite the owl to familiar territory.  D. Barr drove to Morgantown and picked up the owl and brought him back to his home on Limestone Road and waited until dusk.

Around 5 p.m. on Thursday evening, they took the tote housing the owl near the location he was discovered a month prior.  The lid was removed and within a few moments, the owl busted out of the tote and flew just a few yards before landing momentarily.  He looked back as if to thank the Barr’s before he took flight and headed right back towards where he came from.

If you would come across a wild bird, please proceed with caution and contact the proper authorities to ensure the safest and most natural outcome for the bird.