REGI cares for baby barn owls after rare nest spotted

First Wisconsin barn owl nest spotted in more than 20 years, according to DNR
The owls rarely seen in Wisconsin were found in a tree in La Crosse
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 5:31 PM CDT
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ANTIGO, Wis. (WSAW) - A rare sight of a barn owl nest has been spotted in La Crosse. It’s the first time in 20 years there has been a documented sighting according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“Everyone was really excited they were there, the first nest in 20 years,” said Marge Gibson, Raptor Education Group Inc. Founder.

A storm knocked down the nest along with three baby barn owls living in it. Which killed one and injured two others. That’s when Raptor Education Group stepped in for some tender love and care.

The babies came in weak and unable to eat on their own. The staff, REGI, and a new foster mother barn owl took over.

“We have a female barn owl, she’s a European barn owl that we put them with her so she could take over and they wouldn’t be as nervous and as upset,” said Gibson.

On Monday, REGI gave the siblings a physical exam to see if they were ready to head off into the wild on their own.

“Well, it’s a really exciting day. This is the last day that they are going to be handled and they are going to be released in the southern part of the state tomorrow so we did a full physical on them. Checking their wings, checking everything about them,” said Gibson.

On their wings, you can often see stress marks if they’ve gone through something traumatic, which can prevent them from flying. Luckily, they both received a clean bill of health on their feathers, eyes, ears, and hearts. Gibson added that they are a perfect weight.

They’ll be taken to the southern part of the state on Tuesday where they’ll stay a week, so they get accustomed to the sounds and environment before they head back into the wild.

Gibson said barn owls aren’t often found in Wisconsin because of the cold winters. They’re more likely to be seen in southern states. However, if there are more sightings in Wisconsin they may be considered to be added back to the endangered species list in Wisconsin. Since there wasn’t enough data in 2014, according to the DNR that’s when they were taken off the list.

You can support the barn owl population by leaving up dead trees when it’s safe, not using pesticides, and reporting observations. You can report those observations to either the DNR or Raptor Education Group Inc. REGI said it’s best to send a picture if you can so they can help you identify the owl.

To keep up with other REGI rescues click here for their Facebook page.