Invasion of the Baby Raptors!

It all started with our baby great horned owl, featured in the blog post, Welcome to Vermont, Baby Owl! Now we’ve got another baby owl, but this time, a barred owl. To top it off, VINS Wildlife Services also recently received a baby red tailed hawk!

While baby birds of any sort are par for the course this time of year, last year we received zero baby owls or hawks.

The baby hawk was found in Vermont after the tree its nest was in fell during a storm. The hawk was found on the ground beside two of its deceased siblings. The owlet was found at the base of a tree, and while on many such occasions a baby raptor can be placed back in its nest, this circumstances of the owl’s finding did not allow for re-nesting at this time.

Both young raptors are being fed rodent meat every 2 hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. We try to replicate both their diet and feeding schedule as it would be in the wild.

The trickiest part in rehabilitating such young raptors is that they can imprint quite easily. Imprinting means that the bird begins to associate humans with food and companionship, and may eventually identify itself as a human. Clearly, an owl or hawk who believes himself to be human cannot be released back into the wild, as he wouldn’t survive. The goal of VINS Wildlife Services is to always return all birds back into the wild, where they belong. It’s not always possible, but we make every effort to release birds back into the wild. To protect baby raptors from imprinting on us, we wear a brown pillow case over our heads. While that may seem silly, it prevents the babies from seeing a human face during feeding. We also wear a brown leather glove on our hand as we hand-feed the birds.
Below, watch a video of the baby hawk being fed! You’ll notice stuffed animals in some baby bird enclosures. Having something soft the birds can lay or sit against helps mimic the comfort they would normally receive in the wild while in a nest with other siblings and their parents.


  1. naturegirl on May 22, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    So are these baby birds eventually going to look for mates and flocks of brown pillow cases? yuk, yuk, yuk…! Just kidding! I am curious, though, as to how they learn to recognize their own kind?

    I look forward to hearing the progress of these young raptors in the future!

    Keep up the good work, VINS Wildlife Services! Great photos, too.

  2. Meghan on May 23, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Dear naturegirl,

    We certainly hope they don’t flock to brown pillow cases… and as far as I know there are no brown pillow cases wandering the woods of Vermont 🙂

    We can sometimes put baby raptors in with an adult raptor from our exhibits. We may try to put our young hawk in with our adult female red-tailed hawk from exhibit. This is a great way for youngsters to learn “what they are.”

    Currently, we have a baby great horned owl in rehab who is in our flight cage with an adult female great horned owl from exhibit. The young owl definitely recongizes that he is an owl, and sits beside the adult owl all day long.

    I will be posting updates of these birds soon, so stay tuned!

  3. Donna on July 6, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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