A Bird of a Feather…

Reporting is a busy business.

So often we report on things that, once  published, we move right on to the next story. Admittedly, I probably couldn’t tell you what I have reported on without looking at a list of titles! People will sometimes mention a story and I will have to dig deep to remember it. With that said… a good while ago, while with a different newspaper, I wrote about a small barn owl that had been found out at the Jacksboro lake. The (then) Animal Control officer (and good friend) Star Kinder had received a call about it. The caller reported that there was an injured owl. Star went and found the poor thing…very malnourished, he had a hurt foot and had taken a direct hit from a skunk.

Knowing that I love a good story and animals, Star called me and told me to come see what she had at the fire station. Of course I smelled it before I ever saw it! Star had it nestled in a pet carrier, nice and comfy. He was alert, yet in need of medical attention. After a cool photo shoot, she packed the owl up in her truck and headed to Wichita Falls, where a rehab is located (another “resident”, a bald eagle, was taken there a couple of years ago by our [then] Game Warden, Gary Hobbs).

According to a letter written by “Lila”, the owl arrived in pretty dire condition. “On intake the owl weighed 775 grams. Today it now weighs a normal weight of 1,225 grams. The vision came back but when the owl tangled with the skunk, its foot was bitten numerous times. The bites were infected and the owl made a total of 4 trips to the vet to have the lesions lanced open. Once the swelling was gone, the vet was able to get an accurate x-ray. The bites from the skunk had mangled the bones in its foot. The vet deemed it not releasable”.

It was then that the owl, named “Beau” became the personal “educational bird” of Lila. Lila fit the owl with “jesses” (leather ankle straps that go on the bird’s legs to allow the handler to keep it on the glove). Lila reported that Beau made no attempt to fly away. Beau has a very gentle nature and seemed as though he almost appreciated what had been done for it.

This past June, Kinder received an update about Beau. In her latest letter, Lila reports:

“Beau is doing well. He still suffers from the side effects of the long term antibiotic use. His feathers are brittle and snap easily. He is very sweet and gentle, which is very unusual for a Great Horned Owl. He is sponsored by a school in Okatie, South Carolina, whose mascot is “Oakie”…a Great Horned Owl. He is doing awesome!”

In days where, so many times, we have to report the things that are ugly, it truly warms the heart to see a group of people come together to help something as fragile as a wounded, stinky owl. I’m sure that Beau is glad there are folks out there willing to jump in and help, no questions asked.

From Low Country Raptors (Ruffin, SC)

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) This owl is named for its most distinctive feature — large, wide-set ear tufts or ‘horns’ that give its head a cat-like shape. Females are larger than males, and the sexes look alike. The head is large, with feathering across the forehead that shades the yellow eyes into a fierce expression. The body is broad and bulky, the tail is short, and the talons are large and very strong. The wingspan of this owl is comparable to the wingspan of a large hawk. The largest of North American owls with ear tufts, and one of the largest owls on the continent, this owl is a fierce-looking predator. This owl is swift and graceful in flight, moving with stiff, steady wing beats, with wings held mostly below horizontal; flight speeds up to 40 mph have been recorded.

Beau was found  down and emaciated at a lake in Jacksboro, TX.  He was temporarily blinded by a direct blast of spray in the face from a skunk .  Great Horned Owls are the only bird of prey that will eat a skunk.  He had been on the ground for almost 2 weeks and came into rehab at 65% of his normal body weight.  Organ failure begins when a bird hits 70% of normal body weight.  The vision recovered but he was not able to move his right foot. After re-examination by our vet, it was determined his foot had been mauled by the skunk. The foot was filled with infection.  After months of soaking and antibiotics, Beau was not able to regain the use of that foot.    He is permitted to Lila Arnold who holds both state and federal permits to possess for educational purposes.


SizeLength: 22″ ave. Wing Span: 44″ ave. Weight: 3.1 lb. ave.

Status – State and federally protected.

Habitat – Has the widest range of habitat and climate variations of any North American owl; adaptable to habitat change. Lives in forests, open country, woodlots, riparian areas, deserts, city parks. May often be spotted roosting in the daytime, usually in a tall tree, close to the trunk.

Diet – Prefers rats and mice, but will eat a large variety of prey – mammals from the size of shrews to porcupines, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Primarily semi-nocturnal to nocturnal, but will also hunt in the daytime. Hunts from a high perch, making a short flight to capture prey once it’s been detected.

Call – The Great Horned Owl will lean forward, lift its tail, and vibrate its white throat feathers when giving its characteristic call of five or six deep, resonant hoots: Whoo! hoo-Hoo-hoo,…Whoo! Whoo!

Nesting – This owl nests in trees, on cliffs, in caves, and sometimes on the ground. Will use abandoned hawk nests if these are available or, since it nests earlier in the season than hawks over most of its range, it will simply appropriate an attractive nest.

Most Common Problems – Collision with vehicles. Other common injuries include poisoning from rodenticides, gunshot wounds, electrocution from contact with powerlines, entangling in wire (and apparently skunks).

Beau the Owl

To read about Beau and his friends at Low Country Raptors log onto

  • http://www.lowcountryraptors.org/great-horned-owl
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