Gleneagle Road owlet sees another day

A spotted eagle owlet was rescued after heavy rains destroyed the nest in a tree in Greenside.

A distressed spotted eagle owlet was rescued by EcoSolutions Urban Ecology at a home on Gleneagles Road in Greenside after a night of heavy storms on 19 October.

According to Shannon Torrance, a resident in the area, the owls have been living in a tree on her property for about four years. She said she knew that the female was hatching because she hadn’t moved for weeks and a few days before the storm an owlet was spotted.

“We didn’t know there were three [owlets] at the time, we only found that out when we saw two dead owlets at the base of the tree and one was still alive at the top of the tree,” explained Torrance. “My neighbour contacted the Owl Box Project, and they came to rescue the owlet that was still alive.”

The EcoSolutions rescue team put a ring on an owlet in Greenside.

The EcoSolutions rescue team put a ring on an owlet in Greenside.

Jonathan Haw, owner of EcoSolutions, an initiative which looks at environmental solutions and specialises in integrated pest management, said the project run by the company was one of the largest in the world. They have been in existence for almost two decades and construct their owl boxes from recycled plywood.

Haw said the death of the two owlets was due to their nest being flooded with water. “We managed to put up a box for the remaining owlet in Greenside and we might put in another owlet in the box so the parents can raise two.”

An owl parent using the owl box donated by Ecosolutions in Greenside.

An owl parent using the owl box donated by Ecosolutions in Greenside.

Haw, an ANN7 South African of The Year nominee in the Conservationist of the Year category said owls in Johannesburg struggled to find breeding sites even though the city was seen as a forest. He said most cavity breeding owl species preferred to use dead trees which are often cut down.

“The owl boxes we provide are essentially cavities in the trees,” explained Haw. “They [boxes] are cavities in live trees to replicate the cavities which should be in dead trees.”

Jonathan Haw owner of EcoSolutions says birds who have fallen out of their nests should be left where they are found, unless they are injured.

Jonathan Haw owner of EcoSolutions says birds who have fallen out of their nests should be left where they are found, unless they are injured.

The owl boxes, which have an estimated lifespan of about eight years, have to be serviced annually before breeding season to ensure that the owls return.

“Once we have put the box up, we have to go back and service it,” said Haw. “But if owls could choose, they would breed on the ground because they often get out of the nest or the box before they can fly.”

A concern raised by Haw was that in many instances when owls are found on the ground, the immediate reaction is to contact a rescue centre or a rehabilitation centre to get them removed.

“Once the owlet has been removed you have not done it any favours, unless it is injured,” he said. “When they come out of the nest they are not flying well but all young birds go through that and if it gets through those three days, it goes on to survive.”

A spotted eagle owlet was rescued after heavy rains destroyed the nest in a tree in Greenside.

A spotted eagle owlet was rescued after heavy rains destroyed the nest in a tree in Greenside.

He stressed that if that process was interfered with and the birds were whisked off to live in cages, it deprived them of an opportunity to grow in a free environment.

“Our intentions are good but if you find a bird on the ground, you have to leave it there. Keep all other pets away from it,” pleaded Haw. “It’s parents won’t let cats or even people come near it. It will sit tucked away so nobody sees it but it’s just a couple of days.”

Haw said the public was welcome to get in touch with EcoSolutions for any advice before getting any birds removed.

  AUTHOR
Lethu Nxumalo

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