A Great Horned Owl that is approximately 2 weeks old is being rehabilitated at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo.
According to Sara Hamlin, zoo supervisor and curator, high winds knocked the branch that held its nest from a tree, killing one chick and leaving this one homeless. For now it is fed mouse parts three or four times a day, by hand.
It will take seven to eight months for the chick to develop its adult feathers, said Jordan Mooney, who came to work in the zoo as a customer relations employee last November. This species of owl is one of the slowest to develop adult plumage, he said.
But in 45 to 49 days it should be fully feathered and capable of short flights, according to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Unfortunately, the hand-feeding this chick will receive may leave it unsuitable for release into the wild, Hamlin said. The Great Bend Zoo already has a Great Horned Owl named Thurston, so the chick will probably go to another zoo or nature conservancy.
The Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo has been rehabilitating birds of prey for decades, Hamlin said. However, when humans find nestlings on the ground they should not bring them to the zoo, in most cases.
“Their parents are always the best caregivers,” Hamlin said. If possible, get the bird to a place safe from pets; try to return the nest to the tree or if the nest has been destroyed substitute a shoebox.
Mooney isn’t the only newcomer on the zoo staff. Zookeeper Katy Schmidt joined the team in March. More information about zoo employees will be shared later this month when the Great Bend Tribune publishes its annual Zoo Pride edition.