SIOUX CITY | Working in wildlife rescue for 18 years, Lynn Posey has seen almost everything. Recently, however, she received an animal she’d never taken in before.
The Wildlife Lodge and Clinic received a call the morning of Sept. 9 that a barn owl at Central Valley Ag Cooperative in Akron, Iowa, was unable to fly and needed stabilization and emergency care.
“There was a wing lag on one side, but no open fractures or obvious deformities,” Posey said.
Pat Rathen and Scott Staum, workers at the co-op, had been watching a group of barn owls in a roost bin for months when they noticed this juvenile female was injured. Staum then drove the owl down to the lodge in Sioux City.
“It is really wonderful to get referrals from folks who really care about the raptors,” Posey said.
When the volunteer-driven, nonprofit group received the raptor, she was hand-fed stew meat covered with an IV solution that provides electrolytes and a small amount of Vitacal, a high-calorie and nutrient-rich gel.
“Barn owls have a very high metabolism, so it was important to keep the owl well fed,” Posey said. “She then would have four to five mice for overnight. Her intake status was good as far as she was not dehydrated or ill fed.”
Late last week the owl was transferred to SOAR, Saving Our Avian Resources, in Dedham, Iowa, where it will undergo more extensive rehabilitation and testing in flight lanes.
Posey is optimistic that the owl will do well at SOAR and be released back into the wild.
“The barn owl did so well here, we do anticipate full recovery and hopefully release back to Akron where it came from,” she said.
Barn owls are uncommon around Sioux City due to a lack of hunting area.
“They are dwindling in numbers in northwest Iowa as there is not much grassy savannah here for mice and smallish mammal hunting,” Posey said. “Most areas in northwest Iowa have fence-to-fence crops of corn and soybeans. The barn owls prefer a dense large grassy area to hunt in. They do not migrate and if they move, it is to a better hunting area.”
Posey added that barn owls are unique in that they mate at any time of the year depending on food sources and their appearance is different from most owls. They have a large, heart-shaped facial disk that sets them apart.
The owls also make noises different from the typical “hoot” that is most well-known.
“(They) make raspy hissing sounds for vocalizations. The sounds can be useful in scaring off the wary raccoon looking for an egg for lunch,” Posey said.
Barn owls also eat over 1,000 mice per year, so they are typically welcomed by farmers. Drawing them to the area can sometimes be difficult, though.
“Some people are erecting nest boxes for them with good success,” Posey said.