How To Comfort A Dying Owl?

Owls fall under the category of raptors that reside and hunt independently in the wild.

Keeping them in captivity is neither legal in most of the countries nor recommended generally as taking care of them is quite a task. However, you may help an injured or dying owl if you find them outdoors. 

This summer, when I visited my grandmother, I encountered an owl in her backyard.

The bird was lying on the ground and unmoving. I wasn’t aware of what I should do so I called my grandmother. She came immediately and set to work, taking required care of the bird.

The event triggered the curiosity in me to know more about how to comfort a dying or injured owl. So, when I returned home, I researched everything related to it.

With all the information I gathered and my experience, here are some tips and ways that you can use.

How To Comfort A Dying Owl?

1. Try getting close to the owl

Injury is not the only reason these birds lie on the ground. There are chances that they may just be looking for their prey. So, getting closer to the owl at a slow pace will help you know if they are genuinely injured or not. 

If the owl moves away from you, do not intimidate the bird by going more near it. Simply leave the bird alone. But if the owl remains unmoving, it confirms that the bird isn’t alright.  

2. Minimise stress

Like other birds, owls can also get killed by shock even if they are not injured at all. Accidents, weakness, or injuries can all cause stress to them. To minimize their stress, you must avoid intimidating the owl with any of your actions. 

People often assume that if the owl allows them to come near to it, the bird may be alright in being handled by them. But this is just not right. 

If the owl allows you to get closer to it, then it is likely to be in a serious condition in which it has no energy left to respond. But handling the owl may actually traumatize it more. So, do not try to examine the owl yourself if you have not done it ever before. 

3. Throw a blanket gently over the owl 

An injured or dying owl may not have the energy to move and thus, will likely be laying on the ground for a long time.  Laying on the ground in an open space could be cold and unsuitable for their state. Throwing a blanket or a jumper over the owl’s body will keep it warm and calm.

4. Put the owl in a well-ventilated cardboard box

Find a dark cardboard box, large enough to keep the bird inside it so that the bird does not get any further damages. However, it shouldn’t be too large that the owl could jump around inside.

To make the cardboard box well ventilated, you can simply poke some holes on all the sides of the box. Put the bird inside it gently, holding it from the middle, while still keeping the blanket on it as you carry it.  

Make sure that the bird’s face remains uncovered so that it does not get difficulty in breathing.

5. Place a bowl of water near the owl

Many times owls do not get proper hydration and thus, become dehydrated and sick. Also, if the bird has been injured, there are chances that it may have not consumed water for a while. 

Put a bowl of water near the owl’s head inside the box so that it could have water if it feels thirsty. 

6.  Contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center

Providing expert care is the best thing you can do to comfort a dying owl. The bird rescue knows exactly what should be done and how the bird should be treated in its last few hours. 

Also, it can be possible that your assumption about the bird’s situation may not be correct. You may think that it would not last more than a few hours but it can actually be treated and nurse back to health. 

If the bird is injured, it often needs long-term medical care and rehabilitation before it can be healthy again and released back into the wild. So, once you keep the owl safe and secure, call a trained rehabilitator or veterinarian as soon as possible. 

7. Do not force-feed or water

The intention of feeding or giving water to an injured, sick, or dying owl is not wrong but if you lack prior experience of feeding an owl, it’s better to not try it. It is because your attempt to force-water or feed the bird yourself could injure the owl even more. 

8. Avoid keeping an owl as a pet

It can be possible that you may generate a soft corner for the bird and thus, want to keep the owl you find as a pet. But it is not recommended as the owls are wild birds and can’t be captivated. Taking care of the bird by yourself could worsen the condition even more. 

Hand over the owl to the rehabilitation center as soon as you can so it can be nursed back to health and thus released into the wild where it belongs. And even if the bird does not have much time left, it can get the comfort and care it needs. 

How do I know if an owl is injured or hurt?

If an owl is injured or hurt badly, there will be obvious signs that one can see just by looking at the bird such as a wound, cut, bleeding, or protruding bone. But it may not always be the case, some injuries happen internally and thus, are difficult to point out. 

The bird in such a situation may look docile, underweight, barely conscious or unconscious, too young, and ‘not perfectly alright’. Then the first thing that should be done is to assess the owl’s bodily condition and its behavior.

However, it is not really recommended to assess the bird physically by yourself as the bird may get stressed, aggressive, or even more hurt.

So, the only way you can assess the bird’s condition without touching it is by looking over the bird carefully, 

Here are a few ways that you must follow carefully to know if the bird is injured or hurt.

  • Notice the position of the owl, especially its wings. If one wing is held a little lower than the other then, it indicates that the owl may have an injury in the wing held low.
  • Look into their eyes to see if both eyes appear the same or if one eye is more closed or open than the other.
  • Check the surrounding of the owl to see if it has produced any droppings. If you see them, notice the color. Usually, the white and black color of dropping indicates good health whereas green or any other color signals some problem healthwise.
  • Also, check out if the owl has regurgitated any pellet. If you see some, it’s a sign that the bird has eaten recently.
  • Look at the owl properly to see if there is any sign of blood or not.

All of them suggest the actual condition of the owl so it’s good to note them down somewhere. You can make your decision based on this assessment.

If all the points inclined more towards the positive, then pass the owl to an expert vet or rehabilitator immediately.

I found an owl on the ground? Why would an owl be on the ground?

An owl can be on the ground for multiple reasons and it’s not always a matter of concern. Here are the main reasons why an owl can be on the ground:

1. Hunting 

Owls are birds of prey that are always ready to hunt. If they see their prey on the ground, they won’t mind flying down to the ground to hunt it. Owls mostly like to hunt by landing on top of their targeted prey and sitting on them until the prey dies. 

The process can take a few minutes and therefore you may get to see the owl on the ground while it kills its prey. 

2. Injury or Sickness

These birds of prey are always in search of their hunt and hence, are always at risk of getting injured. Predation is a major cause of high mortality rates in owls. So, it is not rare if you find an injured owl outdoors.

An injured or sick owl may not be able to fly and thus, lie on the ground. In such a case, it’s recommended to pass the owl onto an expert veterinarian or rehabilitation for assistance. 

3. Age of the Owl

Young owls are known to leave their nests and explore on the ground. Unlike other birds, the owls are absolutely fine with it. The parents usually know where their young ones are and even if the owlets are outside the nest nearby on the ground, they still continue to feed their young. 

This is helpful for the young ones to become independent before they leave their nests completely. Often human interference in such situations can turn a natural process into a mess. 

If the owl is moved, the parents may not be able to locate the owlet and thus the young may die starving. Therefore it’s always better to leave the owlet on its own.

4. Trapped 

Often, when the owls land on the ground, they get caught in traps, litter, bushes, etc, and thus get stuck. The entanglement can cause harm to the birds as they may die from hunger and dehydration. So, if you find a trapped owl, try to help the bird in getting free.

What is the lifespan of an owl?

The lifespan of owls may vary according to their species as each species has different life patterns. However, generally, the owls in the wild live up to 9 to 10 years whereas, in captivity, it gets extended up to 28 years.

Various factors contribute to the lifespan of an owl such as size, habitat, predators, etc. Therefore, it’s quite difficult to tell the exact lifespan.  

Do owls play dead?

Some species of owls often play dead when they are in a dangerous situation. They display their stress in such ways and playing dead is the top one among them. The other ways can be hissing and fluffing, snapping of beaks, etc 

Most of the owl species are quite aggressive, so they are more likely to show defense tactics like grabbing with their feet, lunging towards you with their beaks, etc. So, whether an owl can play dead or not completely depends on its species. 

Do owls die easily? What can kill an owl?

Young owls are more prone to dying easily than adult ones. It is estimated that almost half of the young owls’ population die before they reach adulthood. But, it doesn’t mean that adult owls are secure and have no danger to their life.  

The common causes behind the killing of owls include:

  • Poison

Owls feed on small animals that are often poisoned by humans. Thus, when owls feed on them, they too get exposed to the poison. Rats are one such animal that owls feed on the most. When they are poisoned, they also generate a threat to the life of owls eating them.

  • Vehicular collisions

Owls that live and hunt near highways are at high risk of getting severe injuries or death from vehicular collisions. 

  • Habitat loss

When owls lose their habitat, they also lose their source of food. If they do not get proper nutrition, they become more vulnerable to death, especially the young ones.

  • Starvation 

The lack or unavailability of a food source can lead to dehydration in the birds because owls do not often drink water, they fulfill their water requirement from the food they eat. A dehydrated owl can not survive for long. 

  • Diseases 

Diseases such as West Nile Virus, Avian Tuberculosis, Pneumonia, etc. can be very devastating for owls Many other parasitic diseases also pose a great threat to the birds. 

  • Predation

Large raptors such as eagles may attack owls if they are starving. The young ones are more likely to get killed by the predators like squirrels, snakes, possums, ravens, and other raptors. 

  • Human influence 

Humans often cause trouble to owls by performing various activities such as deforestation and illegal hunting. Even, their presence can instigate the parents to abandon their nest and the young ones. 

Is it hard to take care of an owl?

Taking care of an owl is not as easy as taking care of other pet animals. They come with loads of responsibilities that are intense and difficult to cope with. 

The major reason for this is their antisocial behavior. The birds like to be alone and thus, respond aggressively to any social activity. They are wild and fierce predators, hence, only the ones with proper training can take care of them. 

The other reasons why taking care of the birds is hard are:

  • Owls cannot sustain on pellets or other commercially prepared feed. They need the same food they would have in nature.
  • These birds are nocturnal, therefore, they keep a different schedule. Owls become vocal and active at night, thus causing trouble to your sleep. 
  • Keeping an owl inside is a direct invitation to mess because the birds are sloppy eaters. Also, they regurgitate a lot and their poop has a nasty odor. 

Wrapping up:

An owl needs proper care if they are injured, sick, or about to die.

If you find one, then reaching out to a rehabilitation center or a bird rescue is the best aid you can provide to the bird. However, you can take short-term care of the bird until you take the bird to the expert.