Owls of Southwest Florida

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

There are five species of owls that live in Southwest Florida. This includes the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio), the Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), the Barred Owl (Strix varia), the Barn Owl (Tyto alba), and the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus). Over the years, human interference has caused population numbers to decrease, and these birds frequently come into CROW for a variety of reasons including being hit by cars, rodenticide, and systemic diseases.

Owls are birds of prey and commonly feast on rats, mice, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and even other birds. Their specialized feathers enable them to have near-silent flight which makes for efficient hunting. Although most birds require sight in both eyes for hunting and survival in the wild, CROW veterinarians can remove owl’s eyes in cases of systemic disease or infection with the owl still being a candidate for release. Owls primarily rely on their ears for hunting. They can proficiently hunt even with the loss of the eye. Interestingly, their ears, which are holes in the side of their head, are asymmetrical; this allows them to hear a wider range of sound throughout their environment. Owls have four digits (or toes)- one of which can pivot forward to aid gripping and walking. These birds have immense gripping force. In the case of the Great Horned Owls, their strength is 3,000 pounds per square inch. For reference, this is three times the gripping force of Bald Eagles.

Most owls in Southwest Florida have incredible camouflaging skills due to their uniquely patterned feathers. Most species nest in trees and often use old hawk and squirrel nests; burrowing owls often occupy abandoned holes made by other animals such as Gopher Tortoises.

At CROW, we have three birds of prey as part our permanent animal ambassadors, one of which is a Great Horned Owl named Mina. She came to us in 2016 due to her right wing being mostly amputated from unknown trauma. Surprisingly, she was in good health besides the fact, which led the hospital staff to suspect a mate was caring for her in the wild. Great Horned Owls are the biggest species found in Southwest Florida and can reach two feet tall with a wingspan of five feet. As a comparison, Eastern Screech Owls and Burrowing Owls only grow to between six to ten inches.

On January 20th, a fledgling Eastern Screech Owl was admitted to CROW after being seen leaning against a tree unable to fly. Upon further examination, the patient was severely dehydrated and had an abrasion on its beak. Veterinarians suspect that the fledgling fell from the nest and will be potentially renested.

Educating the public is an effective way to prevent more injured birds. Ceasing use of glue traps and rodenticide can prevent unintended harm to birds. Additionally, being mindful and aware while operating a vehicle can protect wildlife, especially low-flying owls who nest in trees only 10-15 feet in the air, such as Eastern Screech Owls. Abduction or kidnapping can occur when well-meaning humans take a baby or fledging away from their nest. Contacting your nearest wildlife center can be vital in deciding whether an animal needs assistance.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (1/14-1/21):
There were 31 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including an anhinga, a barred owl, two brown pelicans, 12 eastern cottontails, two eastern screech owls, a gopher tortoise, two gray catbirds, a herring gull, a laughing gull, a merlin, a mourning dove, two ospreys, a ring-billed gull, two royal terns, an a Virginia opossum. Recent Releases include a black racer, a peninsula Cooter, and a great egret.

Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases.

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center, 3883 Sanibel Captiva Rd.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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