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Notes from St Tiggywinkles: Not for cuddles! Owls are cute but deadly...

Cute but deadly tawny owl

Cute but deadly tawny owl

  • by Les Stocker, founder of St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital in Haddenham
 

They are cute. They are cuddly. But are they really cuddly?

Appearances can be deceptive.

Baby tawny look like butter would not melt in their mouths.

Do not be taken in.

These babies will grow into our largest native owls, the “to-whit, to-woos” of the local night.

Although not long out of the egg they already have the talons of adult owls.

Pick one up and it will, instinctively, clamp those needle-sharp weapons onto an unwary finger.

Believe me, it hurts.

This is how these owlets will make their living.

They will be at the top of the food chain and have to hunt to survive.

Nature has designed owls for their nocturnal lifestyle.

In the dark of the night they can’t see that well in spite of those glorious black eyes.

But nature has provided a solution.

Owls have enormous ears set at different heights each side of their heads.

Covered by soft feathers this adaptation enables them to detect and home in on the smallest sound.

Small mammals secretly roaming the dark undergrowth do not stand a chance.

Another physical ability is that they can turn their heads through 180º and look over their backs.

Now back to those cuddly bundles of baby owl often found on the ground, having, somehow, fallen from their nests.

In spite of totally misguided advice to “leave them alone”, they will perish if they are not rescued.

Pick them up using a jacket or sweater to avoid those talons.

Do not try to feed them but bring them to Tiggywinkles where they can join one increasing family of tawny owls growing ready for release in the autumn.

The great thing is that owls do respond to the right care and diet and can be released to bring their ‘”to-whit, to-whoos” echoing through our night-time woods.

 

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