NEWBURYPORT — A baby owl found on the lawn of a Fox Run Drive residence this morning was returned to a large tree, where wildlife experts hope its parents will find it.
Julie Murray said her 5- and 6-year-old children and her mother were excited to spot a baby owl sitting in her backyard. But the baby was all alone, prompting Murray to take a picture and send it to Mass Audubon in hopes that they could rescue that owlet.
Melissa Vokey of Mass Audubon's Joppa Flats Education Center said they called licensed wildlife rehabilitator Dave Taylor to rescue the owlet, which they identified as a great horned owl.
"They believe from the windy conditions, and the stage that it's in — it can't fly so its mother puts it on a branch and feeds it — that it could have fallen," Murray said.
Taylor then used a ladder to transport that owlet onto a branch high up in a white pine tree.
Vokey said there weren't any apparent injuries, and that it didn't seem the baby owl had fallen, though falls do happen a lot this time of year.
"It's baby bird season," Vokey said. "Baby birds are getting bigger and bigger and the nests get smaller. Sometimes, they're also starting to stretch their wings and lose balance."
She said the best thing to do for a fallen owlet is to put it in a tree to get it away from predators like cats and dogs. She said the rumor that if a person touches a bird its parents won't go back to it is a myth. You can touch a bird, and its parents will go back to it. Vokey said that it's best to put it in a nest-like container like a box or basket, and put it high up in a tree, where the bird's parents can hear it and find it.
"It's important for people to understand that feeding or taking baby birds into the house is not good for them," Vokey said. "People think they can help, but the only good thing they can do is leave them outside and put them in a safe place where parents can still feed them."
Though the owner of the Fox Run Drive residence could not hear or see a parent, Vokey expects that an adult owl was probably up in the tree watching the whole rescue and will start feeding the owlet again, now that there are no people around it.
Taylor said the owlet was still in the tree as of yesterday evening, and he is hopeful that the parents will come find him.
"It's still standing there, looking proud — I guess its parents should be able to find him pretty easily," Murray said. "It was a great day with a happy ending."