Sarah, the barn owl, would greet visitors to her home, if only she weren't so drowsy. While we stood in an admiring circle around her, she opened her eyes briefly, then nodded off again. An owl needs her beauty sleep!
We, Laurie and I and a couple with a young son, were in the office of O.W.L., the Orphaned WildLife Rehabilitation Society. Our guide, Rob, explained the operation of the society while Sarah slept on her perch by the window. Staff members and volunteers came and went, discussing schedules and the needs of their charges. A chart on the wall keeps track.
I counted 107 raptors presently on the site. The chart divides them into groups; 4 severely injured birds at present in Intensive Care, some in interim cages, training cages, flight cages. There are flight training sessions in store for red-tailed hawks and a pair of great horned owls. Another section lists the birds soon to be released. The last column names the permanent residents; some are educators, trained for visits to schools and other field trips; the others are unable to be released because of some severe disability. These last are the ones we would be visiting.
O.W.L. takes in injured raptors, mostly from the Lower Mainland, up to 200 per year. It has full medical facilities and a variety of recovery and training cages, and is building a pool cage, where eagles and osprey can recover their fishing skills before release.
He was called Demon because when he is upset, he flies at you with his head upside down, due to his lack of muscle control, a direct result of his injury. A lot of times he sits with his head at a kind of an odd angle and he has been known to fall off his perch because his lack of balance after falling asleep. We have to put his food on the same perch all the time or he cannot find it.
It is a daytime bird with a very keen sense of smell, sight and hearing which enables them to find food by sight and also smell food (parts per trillion) from great distances. Its digestive system has the unique ability to kill any virus or bacteria it ingests. This is apparent in its droppings as there is no sign of any type of disease.