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Baby owlets rescued from concrete plant conveyor belt

The Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society is used to rescuing, rehabilitating, then releasing strays, but these two baby great horned owlets are a little younger than what they're used to.

Two baby owlets will be raised by foster owls named Oberon and Ophelia

The baby animals were rescued from a concrete plant conveyor belt 0:24

The Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society is used to rescuing, rehabilitating, then releasing strays, but the two baby great horned owlets who just moved in are a little younger than what they're used to.

"We got these guys fresh out of the egg, which is not normal for us," said Jenna McFarland, the animal care operations manager. She spoke to The Homestretch's Jenny Howe on Tuesday. 

"Normally we get them in when they're starting to get really big and boisterous — and tend to fall out of nests, usually between two and three months old. So this is really unusual for us." 

Conceived on concrete mixing conveyor

The owlets had the misfortune of being conceived in a concrete plant.

"Their parents laid both of their eggs on a concrete mixing conveyor," McFarland said.

"When the workers at the plant wanted to start up the machinery for the season, they realized there were owls in the machinery — and eggs on the conveyor belt.

"We had to wait until those eggs hatched, then go and remove them."

A pair of week-old unnamed baby owlets rescued by the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society. The owlets will be released into the wild in August. (Jenny Howe/CBC)

'We had to kidnap the babies'

While the owlets were rescued and are healthy, that also effectively eliminated the possibility of a family reunion, she said.

"Unfortunately we had to kidnap the babies from their parents," McFarland said, "but we will be raising these guys with our foster owls so hopefully, they'll do really well [with them]."

The owlets will join their foster owls when they are able to perch on a branch with stability, probably in the next two weeks or so. (Jenny Howe/CBC)

Innate behaviour

In a few short days observing the owlets, McFarland has been struck by how much of their behaviour is nature, not nurture.

"Because they've spent less times with their parents than they have with us, we would expect that those natural owl behaviours would be delayed, or absent — and they aren't. The natural defensive behaviour — the shielding, the peeping, the clacking — it's all built into these guys.

"It's amazing how they don't really habituate to humans as well as we would expect, which is great. And once we get them outside with our foster great horned owls, who live here year-round, they'll really start to develop more of those owl-like behaviours."

The owlets' parents laid their eggs on a concrete mixing conveyor. The eggs were discovered by workers on the conveyor belt. (Jenny Howe/CBC)

Meeting foster owls

The owlets will be raised by Oberon, a one-winged great horned owl named after a character in Shakespeare's A MidsummerNight's Dream, and Ophelia, named after a character in Hamlet, until they are strong enough to be released into the wild.

They haven't met their foster owls yet, but will soon, McFarland said.

A pair of week-old great horned owlets are now patients at the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society. Jenna McFarland is the Animal Care Operations Manager with CWRS. She joined The Homestretch's Jenny Howe. 5:52

"We're going to put them out there once they can perch on some branches with stability, so we're looking at probably a couple more weeks," she said. "We just gave them their first perch today — they're not quite sure about it, they keep falling off."

"It's very low, don't worry."


With files from The Homestretch and Jenny Howe

About the Author

Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: stephen.hunt@cbc.ca