Leon's Rescue

Once a pair of barred owls finds a nesting site that works for them, they continue to come back year-after-year. They will even try to use a nest long after it has deteriorated to the point that it can no longer safely contain the eggs or owlets. This was the case  with Leon's parents when the walls of a decaying tree in South Carolina, where they had nested for the last four years, finally gave way and sent two-day-old Leon and his unhatched sibling tumbling to the ground. Leon was the only survivor, but had no chance of escaping predators if he remained on the ground. Both parents fussed frantically nearby, but could do nothing to help him.

Leon, however,  was a very lucky owlet. He had fallen into the back yard of an owl friendly couple who got excellent advice from their local zoo. They might have taken Leon to a rehabilitation facility, but knew that he was far better off being raised by his parents and found a way to allow this to happen. They mounted a wicker trash basket in a tree near the failed nest, put some old nesting material in it, and deposited two-day-old Leon inside. After a few uneasy hours, Leon's mother landed on the rim of the basket and gazed curiously inside. She then scanned the surrounding area nervously to assure that she was alone before climbing into the basket where she started brooding and feeding Leon as if nothing unusual had happened. Three weeks later, Leon was peering over the rim of the basket (upper picture) and flapping his wings, just as any other owlet that age would do. One week after that picture was taken, he was out of the basket and branching safely in nearby trees (lower picture) where both parents made frequent food deliveries. He then spent the rest of the summer learning to fly and hunt under the protection of his parents, so that he was well prepared to go out on his own in the fall.

These pictures were taken by Rahn, who along with her husband rescued Leon from a very untimely end.

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