EMBER: barn owl
Ember and her siblings hatched sometime in the spring of 2018 in Clayton, a city near the foot of Mount Diablo in the East Bay area. Like many other barn owls in Northern California, the owlets began their lives nestled between the fronds of a palm tree. Cavity-nesters by nature, barn owls often select palm trees as sites to rear their broods, and Ember and her siblings had a very species-typical history during their first few weeks of life.
Everything came crashing down, quite literally, when tree trimmers pruned the palm tree, unaware of the nesting owls. All of the owlets tumbled to the ground, and in the fall Ember sustained a fracture to her left wing’s radius and ulna; her two siblings were uninjured. The owlets were brought to the Lindsay Wildlife Experience Hospital in Walnut Creek to be treated and raised to adulthood. After weeks of rehabilitation and veterinary care, Ember’s bones had mended well, but her wing continued to droop by her side—an indication of some underlying issue, perhaps nerve or tendon damage. Doubting the barn owl’s ability to fly strongly and silently, Lindsay Wildlife transferred her to the California Raptor Center for assessment.
Upon arrival at the California Raptor Center, Ember was deemed non-releasable due to her chronic wing droop. Barn owls are absolutely silent hunters, and any change in feather positioning could cause noises which could compromise her ability to successfully hunt. CRC staff also noted that she was atypically calm for her species, making her an ideal candidate to become an educational ambassador. The last time the CRC had a barn owl on the glove was in 2012; parent-reared barn owls from the wild rarely possess the calm demeanor necessary for display and education, but Ember is clearly a remarkable exception. Only a few short weeks after her arrival, Ember debuted at her first off-site at Turkovich Farms in Winters, where she helped teach about barn owls as a form of organic pest control. Ember is already shaping up to be a stellar ambassador for her species. Welcome, Ember!
Ember’s story highlights the importance of checking trees for wildlife before undertaking any major tree trimming or removal projects. Now is the best time of year to do tree maintenance: by autumn and early winter, many birds in the Davis area, including most local raptors, have finished breeding. When in doubt, you can help protect wild animals and habitats by consulting a wildlife expert before you prune.