Earlier this week, our colleagues at the Peninsula Humane Society Wildlife Care Center received a young Northern saw-whet owl. It was found on a maintenance road in Memorial Park, near Loma Mar.
The owlet arrived weak and dehydrated, leading us to believe it had been without parental care for at least one night. Even so, we all agreed that if the owlet recovered fully, reuniting should be considered.
To reunite a healthy baby with its wild family, one must be well-acquainted with the natural history, or life history, of the species involved. This body of knowledge provides details on nesting behavior, for example, saw-whet owls are cavity-nesters, relying on previously excavated cavities.
We also know that male saw-whet owls provide food to the female while she broods their young, although there are accounts of males providing food for other females and their young. Females leave the nest when the young are approximately 18 days old, when she either joins her mate in rearing their young, or leaves to mate with and raise young with another male. The young fledge at about 4-5 weeks of age, when they are nearly able to fly, but they remain together and in the care of their parent(s) for at least one more month.
Within a couple of days, the little orphan saw-whet had regained its strength and was officially 'out of the woods'. It was time to consider taking him home, but we had to be sure there was at least one parent to care of him.
Last night, two of our responders volunteered to do a stakeout. They met up at the exact location where the owlet had been found and sat quietly in their cars, listening for begging calls from the owlet's siblings. There was nothing.
Today, Maureen returned to the location to do some more detective work, looking for any signs of an active nest or an adult saw-whet.
By day, a saw-whet owl will stay hidden in foliage, roosting on lower branches. Come nightfall, saw-whet owls will use a 'sit and wait then pounce' tactic to secure a meal. They feed primarily on small mammals but will also eat frogs, insects, and occasionally smaller birds.
A HUGE TAHNK YOU TO SUSAN AND MAUREEN FOR GIVING UP THEIR FRIDAY NIGHT TO DO A STAKEOUT!!!!
And many, many thanks to the wildlife rehabilitators at the Peninsula Humane Society Wildlife Care Center!!!