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The Owl Orphanage – St Helena Bay

A place where orphaned and injured owls are looked after, until they are healthy and strong enough for release back into the wild. The Owl Orphanage in St. Helena Bay was opened in January 2019. The centre is under ongoing construction and lots of work is to be done.

We are currently working on building a Medical centre and more aviaries to accommodate the influx of injured and orphaned owls.

 

Since we are a rehabilitation centre, we unfortunately do not allow day visitors. The reason for this is so that the owls do not get used to people and stay as wild possible with absolute minimum human contact.

Once ready, we release the owls on farms where rat poison is not used. Owls at the centre does not stay for unnecessary long periods, because we do not want them to get used to captivity.

 

We use every opportunity to bring awareness and education surrounding owls and our general natural environment. Many owl injuries can be avoided by being aware of such causes.

 

With our passion for our environment we strive to save every life.

The three most common species of owls found in the West Coast.

Spotted Eagle Owl [Africanus Bubo]
Also called Gevlekte ooruil [Afr.] ; ifubesi, isihulu-hulu [Xhosa], isiKhovampondo [Zulu]

The Spotted Eagle Owl has bright yellow eyes and stand about 43 – 50 cm tall. It is a large grey owl, barred in front and blotched on the head, back and wings.

 

Distinguishing features are the tufts of feathers on either side of its head that stands up into “ears”, although they are not used as ears.

 

The sexes are alike in colour and size, and the juveniles resemble the adult.

 

Spotted Eagle Owls are nocturnal. They roost during the day and with brilliant camouflage they blend into their surroundings. At night they fly silently in pursuit for prey.

 

The call of the Spotted Eagle Owl is a mellow hoot. The males hoot twice and the females give a softer triple hoot. The chicks call with a loud screech-like hiss. They also click their beaks when they feel threatened.

 

Spotted Eagle Owls have a varied diet. They prey on insects, small mammals such as mice, moles, rats and small birds up to the size of a laughing dove. Frogs, lizards and snakes are also eaten.

 

The food passes directly to the stomach where it is digested. Owls don’t have a crop. The indigestible portions are compacted into a pellet that is regurgitated.

 

Spotted Eagle Owls pair for life. Eggs are laid from August to October. Two to three rounded and white eggs are laid which, will hatch at between 32 days and 34 days. The female incubates the eggs and the male brings food to the nest. If the male dies or gets injured the chances of the chicks starving to death, is great. At the age of seven weeks, the chicks are able to fly and catch their own prey. At four months old the young owls are fully independent and start leaving their parents to find their own territory. These Owls can live for 11 to 12 years.

Barn Owls
[Tyto Alba Affinis]
Also called ghost owl [Eng.]; nonnetjie-uil [Afr.]; isikhova [Xhosa]

 

Western Barns Owls are medium-sized measuring 30-33 cm in length, with long wings and a short tail. The upper body is golden brown, vermiculated with grey, and spotted black and white. The heart shaped face is contrasted by small brown to black eyes. The underparts is white with fine brown spots. Males are lighter in complexion than females.

 

Barn Owls are adapted to silent flight. Comb-like structures at the edges of the wings, called serrations, play a vital role in air-flow control and noise-reduction during flight.

 

Barn Owls communicate by using complex variety of sounds, with the most common being an eerie “schreeeee” screech. During courtship a loud hissing scream with a marked-shaking or quivering is given in flight. A low walling and purring sound is also used to attract females. When threatened a defensive hiss is made.

 

Barn owls prefers open areas such as grasslands, wooded savannahs and deserts. They live in tree cavities, fissures in cliffs and abandoned buildings.

 

Barn Owls are nocturnal and feed mainly on small rodents, small birds, insects, lizards, frogs and termites. Prey is usually swallowed whole.

 

Barn Owls mate for life and they are very territorial. Breeding season starts from August until December. A Female can lay 4 to 7 eggs, but not all will hatch. Incubation time is 29 to 34 days.

 

Fledging begins after 45 to 55 days.Barn owls can live as long as 30 years, depending on their environment.

Cape Eagle Owls
[Babo Capensis]

 

Being similar in many ways, the Spotted Eagle – and Cape Eagle Owls are often confused with each other. The Spotted Eagle Owl has fine barring on its front. The Cape Eagle Owl has large blotches all over its front that extends all the way to its lower belly.

 

Cape Eagle Owls are larger than Spotted Eagle Owls, even their feet is longer and stronger. Cape Eagle Owls have orange eyes and Spotted Eagle Owls have yellow eyes.

 

The song of the male is a powerful, deep hoot, followed by a faint short note “Boowhu-hu”. The female has a slightly higher-pitched song.

 

Conservation status

The above mentioned owls are not threatened in South Africa. However, they fall victim to senseless killings, car accidents [road kill], secondary poisoning from eating rats and mice, loss of habitat and dangers through development.

 

Owls do not see wires and often gets injured by flying into it or getting stuck in razor wire.

 

It is illegal to keep an owl as a pet. Although it sounds mysterious to have a pet owl, they can be hard work when it comes to supplying the best diet and being nocturnal doing what owls do best at night, keeping you awake.

Throughout history, owls have been associated with superstitious beliefs. They are thought to symbolise death, illness, bring bad luck and they have been allied to witchcraft. Because of these historic believes and myths many owls gets killed by human hand. Some owls even gets killed, to make traditional potions. It is believed that its “magic” will be transferred to the person using the potion.

 

Owls are a natural solution in keeping rodent populations at bay. Less owls, more rats.

 

Installing owl boxes will encourage owls to nest in your area.

 

Rat Poison is Owl Poison.
Once a rat or mouse consumes the poison it can take up to 12 days for it to die, depending on the amount it consumed. This is a long enough period for any owl to catch this rodent.

 

Standard Rat Poison is Warfarin, a coumarin compound that inhibits a step in vitamin K production. Vitamin K then becomes depleted, this leads to internal bleeding.

Secondary poisoning is when other creatures, like owls, eats the poisoned rodent. It can take as long as 6 to 17 days for an owl to die after eating 3 mice containing the poison.

 

This is a horrid, excruciating death. Once an owl shows symptoms of poison contamination it is in most cases already too late to save its life.

 

How can you help?
Find alternatives instead of poison. A variety of rodent traps are available in stores. The best would be to encourage owls to move into the area. Discourage friends and neighbours on the use of rat poison.

 

Encourage owls to nest by installing owl houses.

 

Be more aware on the roads when driving.

 

When one finds an injured owl, gently catch it from behind with a towel or soft cloth and place in an aerated box. Place box in a dark quiet room and contact your local sanctuary or Veterinarian for help. An injured and stressed owl will normally not drink water neither will they eat. Please get the owl to a specialist as soon as possible. Do not feed it red meat and under no circumstances any pork meat.

 

Visit The Owl Orphanage Online

The Owl Orphanage is not a Government institution, it is run privately. It is an expensive operation to set up, travel far and wide for rescues, to feed owls, to pay veterinary cost and medical supplies.

 

Donations are most welcome and much appreciated. All relevant information can be found on our website.

 

Contact details. [We are available 24/7 for any owl emergency]

Contact Jacques on 072 0405 465
Website-www.theowlorphanage.co.za
Email-theowlorphanage@gmail.com
Facebook-The Owl Orphanage. St Helena Bay [for updates and progress]

 

digital@escapemagazine.co.za

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