Spotlight China: two hopeful rescue stories about owlets from Beijing
An Asian Barred Owlet’s story
A victim of the illegal wildlife trade, this Asian Barred Owlet was caught and transported a long way to be sold. Then given to someone in Beijing as a gift, the bird was not eating and so the owner called the IFAW Beijing Raptor Rescue Centre.
When the IFAW BRRC rescued him, he was underweight, his feathers were broken, and his feet and left wing were wounded. In addition to his poor health, he seemed to be habituated to humans.
This unnatural behaviour would be dangerous for an owl in the wild.
However, in the care of the IFAW BRRC, the owlet soon began eating well and gaining weight. The staff checked his health and cleaned his wounds every day, also administering pain control medicine and antibiotics.
His feet and wing were healed after a few weeks, and by living in a suitable environment with minimum human contact, he reverted to the natural behaviour of trying to avoid humans.
This owlet needed a long time in care to regrow healthy feathers, but after seven months of recuperation his feathers are now much improved. IFAW BRRC plans to release him after his wing feathers are fully regrown and ready to fly free.
The Asian Barred Owlet, Glaucidium cuculoides, is distributed in the temperate forests of India and Southeast Asia, and so the IFAW BRRC staff will take the rescued owlet by train to South China to release him back into the wild.
A Little Owl story
Before this Little Owl came to the IFAW Beijing Raptor Rescue Centre, it had been kept caged up as a pet in Fengtai, Beijing for around a year.
This long captivity in a cage had restricted the owl’s movement and growth, damaging its feathers, and so the owner grew worried about its health.
When the owl arrived at IFAW BRRC, its beak was overgrown, it had no feathers on its head and its wing feathers and skin were damaged.
Living in captivity also meant that at first it could not eat whole prey, as it should by nature, it would only eat meat without fur or bones.
The Little Owl, Athene noctua, can be found locally as well as in many warm parts of Asia, Europe and North Africa.
This species has adapted well to human settlements, often nesting in walls and buildings. Little Owls are partly diurnal and in areas with a lot of human activity, they may get used to people and will boldly remain on their perch in full view of humans.
This unfortunately means that they are relatively easily found and captured, like this owl was.
After rescuing this Little Owl, IFAW BRRC staff trimmed its overgrown beak and placed the owl in a bigger, more suitable enclosure.
The new resident received regular health checks from the staff and since being at IFAW BRRC its feathers have grown back and its health has improved.
The owl will soon be moved into an enclosure with more space to fly, where the staff will assess his flight and check his muscles are strong enough to support a new life in the wild.
After a full recovery, the owl will be released back into the wild in Beijing.