CITRINE: barn owl
Citrine was found by rescuers in October 2011 and taken to the UCD Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH). The veterinarians treated her for eye injuries and transferred her to us for rehabilitation. Unfortunately, she will never be able see well enough to survive in the wild, so she cannot be released.
Right from the start, Citrine seemed calm and was not frightened around people. So we started the taming process,* which slowly acclimates a raptor to handling by humans and being shown in presentations. She was quite calm on the glove, but even after a couple of months of work with her trainers, she would not step easily up onto the glove. Not wanting to stress her, we stopped the taming sessions and moved her to a display cage.
Citrine is still very calm around visitors and seems well adapted to life in her cage. This makes her a wonderful ambassador. Visitors can stand by her cage and study her beautiful feathering and charming face, getting a much closer view of a barn owl than they ever could in the wild. Owing to her darker coloring, we initially believed Citrine to be female--a suspicion later proven correct when she laid several infertile eggs. Most males are much paler, with ghostly white faces to go with their unearthly shrieks.
* Taming is the process of teaching a bird to stay perched on the gloved fist and to accept the presence of people nearby. The bird is fitted with special leather bracelets around the ankles, to which jesses, a swivel, and a leash are attached. This equipment keeps the bird from flying away or from injury if it should become agitated.