The Tale of Two Owlets

By Chris Dodge, Graphic Design and Communications Associate
and McKenzie Joslin-Snyder, Wildlife Rehabilitator

Imagine discovering a baby owl on the ground under a tree on your property. What would you do? This happened to a good Samaritan on March 17. It was after 5 p.m. which is when our Wildlife Care Center closes for the night, so they wisely brought the Great Horned Owlet to Dove Lewis Animal Emergency Clinic who then transferred the owlet to us the next morning. However, the good Samaritan’s job was not yet finished; when they arrived home, they found another baby owl along with broken nest materials on the ground under the same tree!

Owlet in makeshift nest

Since they had just returned from Dove Lewis and it was late, they did some research and discovered that if they put the owlet in a small box under the tree for the evening, the parents would likely find it and continue caring for it. They put a trail cam on the box overnight and were rewarded with photos of the parent visiting the baby overnight. Success!

The next day, the first owlet was brought to us and, upon examination, we discovered that this owlet had a broken wing and would need our continued care.

We called the good Samaritans back and let them know we were keeping the owlet in our care but that we would like to send a volunteer to officially renest the other owlet back in its tree – keeping the owlet safer from predators. 

Great Horned Owl parent, as seen on trail camera, looking in box at its owlet.

A little background information on renesting:

Raptors are relatively heavy and nest high up in trees so replacement nests require more “infrastructure” to ensure they will be safe and suitable for the bird’s development. We use multiple methods to ensure the new nest is sturdy and secure in the tree and this usually involves affixing a platform to the tree branch that the new nest will rest on, then ropes are used as backup to ensure nothing will shift or fall. Milk crates or laundry baskets make good substitute nests because they won’t fall apart and have small holes so they don’t hold water. Towels or natural materials are used to fill the new nest and make sure the chick will stay dry and warm. 

The new “nest” also has to be placed among branches because Great Horned Owls and some other raptors spend a few weeks of their development in the “brancher” stage where they will get out of the nest and explore, practice spreading their wings, and hop from branch to branch. Without branches close by, they’ll just end up on the ground again once they reach that stage.

One of our long time volunteers and her son (pictured climbing the tree) went out to get the substitute nest safely in the tree so the owlet could be cared for by its parents again. We are happy to report that good Samaritans are continuing to monitor the nest remotely with the trail cam and binoculars and, this morning, we received a report that the parent owl stayed with the baby in the nest for most of the night!

Volunteer putting the replacement nest up in the tree where the Great Horned Owl could continue to care for its owlet.

Find an owlet on the ground?

If you see an owlet on the ground, please keep in mind that fledgling owls will sometimes spend time on the ground as they learn to fly, and don’t need interference. It’s also important to call us before attempting to renest, to screen for injuries and ensure it is done properly.


Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center accepts new patients from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503) 292-0304 or email and one of our wildlife solutions counselors will get back to you and provide advice for your specific situation.