Did you know that during the late winter and early spring, several owl species in MN become more active as they establish pair bonds and breeding territories for the upcoming season? In fact, right now great horned owls are laying their eggs and in a few weeks, barred owls and eastern screech owls will begin the search for a nest cavity. With this increased activity comes the increased potential for injury and thus many of the birds the clinic treats during the first 3 months of the year are owls.
Injuries are sometimes traumatic, and frequently they are caused by entrapment. This is the answer to the question about connection between outdoor holiday lights and chimneys. Owls can easily get entangled in the lights decorating trees and cavity nesting species can get caught in what they perceive to be a welcoming cavity – a chimney. In both cases, the birds can’t free themselves, often get injured while trying to escape, may become malnourished if trapped for more than a few days, and end up in need of help. There are things we can do to help prevent these situations from happening:
1. Don’t wait to take down those festive strings of lights. Taking them down right after the holidays may continue to spread the holiday cheer by potentially saving an owl’s life.
2. Make sure that if you have a chimney it is properly fitted with a cap. Local chimney companies can provide that service.
Please spread the word with your family and friends. A little preventative action on your part can help our owl neighbors stay healthy especially during their reproductive season.
(The pictures included in this post are of our staff cleaning a very sooty barred owl, a barred owl with soot still visible around the eyes, and a great horned owl that was photographed near some holiday lights in a Metro area location.)