One of the smallest owls in Northwestern Ontario is the Northern Saw-whet owl. This 4 inch high cutie is often mistaken for a baby but thats as big as it gets. They are named for their call, which in the olden days would have sounded like a sawyer whetting his saw…but in this day and age, I would say it is more like the safety back-up bell on a vehicle. Anyone who has camped near a saw-whets territory may have been driven to madness by the continous, monotonous ‘ doot doot doot doot’ …well you get the idea.
Sadly, when I get to see them close up it is ususally when someone has cut down the large aspen with a recycled pileated woodpecker hole in it. Saw-whets find the abandoned woodpecker homes perfect. Unfortunately, these are the trees considered in decline and are the ones harvested commercially or removed as danger trees.
This time, though, my patient’s admittance was due to the other common injury many birds of prey fall victim to, collision with a vehicle.
A highway contractor saw ravens swooping something along the side of the Trans Canada highway and stopped to check it out. He realized the little owl that was fiercely trying to defend himself was injured. He carefully gathered it into a small cardboard box and delivered it to me.
I was happy to see there were no broken bones, but sad to see one eye was completely dilated. Owls need both eyes. So I will have to let healing occur and before releasing the little nipper back to the wild, I have to be certain he has full vision.
This morning both eyes were constricting and dilating in the light…a very promising sign!