If you see an injured barn owl?
Not all owls on the ground need help. If it is a young owlet with a fuzzy head and body but has fully grown wing feathers and a stubby tail, it is a fledgling just learning to fly. Spending some time on the ground is a normal part of their life, since it takes them days to weeks to learn how to fly well, depending on the species. Mom and Dad are usually nearby taking care of them, whether you see them or not. Owlets at this stage only need help if they are injured or both parents have been killed. If the owlet is in a dangerous location, it can be picked up and moved to a safer location by nudging the back of its legs with a stick to get it to step up or by using leather gloves. Parents will not reject their young just because they were touched by humans. Fledgling owls can actually climb trees using their feet, beaks, and flapping their wings. They do this especially well when placed near a sloping tree trunk. Any adult owl on the ground that you can walk up to needs help.
How do I safely pick up an owl that needs help?
First find a cardboard box that will be big enough to hold the owl without bending any feathers and tall enough for the owl to stand. Punch air holes in the box and put an old towel or shirt in the bottom of the box. (A pet carrier covered with a towel or blanket will also work.) Don’t use a wire cage–this can damage the owl’s feathers enough to prevent it from being released until it goes through another molt.
Slowly approach the owl and toss a towel, blanket, or jacket over it. Watch out for the feet and beak, and press the owl’s wings to its body through the blanket. Carefully pick it up and place it in the box. Close the box and either tape it securely shut or interlock the flaps. Close the box securely no matter how little the owl is moving when you find it. More than one person has had an owl “wake up” and get loose in their vehicle while transporting it!
What should I do with the owl until I can get it help?
It is very important to minimise stress to the owl, so keep the owl in as quiet a location as possible, away from kids and pets. If transporting in a vehicle, keep the radio off and voices low, and brake and accelerate slowly.
If you have to hold on to the owl for a while before it can get to a wildlife rehabilitator, place the box half on and half off a heating pad set on low. This way the owl can chose if it needs extra warmth.