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How to find a local bird-experienced vet or rehabilitator
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Your duty of care
Anyone who has a wild owl casualty in their possession has a duty of care towards it and when passing a bird on, the giver has a duty to ensure that they pass it to someone who follows ‘good practice' (Animal Welfare Act 2006). However, because there is currently no requirement for wildlife rehabilitators to be registered and very little legal control it can be extremely difficult to choose the best recipient for the owl in your possession.
Passing the owl on to a wildlife rehabilitator - what you should be looking for
Many wildlife rehabilitators specialise in particular types of wildlife (e.g. hedgehogs or seabirds) and do not have a great deal of experience with owls; they may not appreciate the different requirements of different owl species. Obviously the perfect recipient for the owl in your care is an owl specialist with many years experience, but these are few and far between. Usually, the best you can do is to find the most suitable one within delivery or collection distance. Asking appropriate questions can help you make the best choice.
Passing the owl on – questions to ask the potential recipient
If you are not sure about the suitability of the person or place, here are a few questions you may like to ask:
• Do you work closely with a vet?
• Roughly how many owls have you treated?
• Roughly how many of those were released?
• Do you release them where they were found?
• Do you just let them go or do you set up a sectional or mobile release aviary at the release site?
• Do you have an aviary available for the owl to recover in?
• How long is the aviary?
All rehabilitators should work with a vet when needs arise. Someone who is not used to dealing with owls may not know about the requirements of the different species. Good rehabilitators will be releasing between 30 and 50% of the owls they receive. Adult owls should always be released in their home range (or territory) but youngsters can be released elsewhere. In the case of Barn Owls, using a release aviary is better than just letting birds go. An aviary suitable for keeping an adult owl undergoing rehabilitation should be at least 6 m (20 feet) long (arguably less for a Little Owl).
How to find a local bird-experienced vet
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) website (see links >) has a search facility where you can enter your postcode and get an extensive list of vets in your area. Clicking on one gives you the details of what they treat and their phone number. The site also has an advanced search facility that enables you to search for wild bird specialists. Non-internet users can telephone the RCVS to obtain the same information on 020 7222 2001. Another option is to telephone your nearest vet and ask if they are experienced with wild birds or can recommend a vet who is. If this draws a blank, contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitator and ask them which vet they use.
How to find a local bird rehabilitator
Although there is no definitive directory of wildlife rehabilitators in the UK, the British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (BWRC) website (see links >) provides contact details for the major rehabilitation centres across the UK, including the Barn Owl Trust. It also has a page with links to other websites that list wildlife rehabilitators. If none are near enough, try contacting the nearest major rehabilitation centre and ask if they know of a suitable recipient in your local area. Alternatively, call the Barn Owl Trust's Live Owl Emergency number (see below).
If you are advising a non-internet user, tell them to look under ‘animal welfare societies' and/or ‘conservation organisations' in the Yellow Pages or ask a local vet if they know of a suitable person to take the owl. At time of writing the BWRC did not have a telephone number for enquiries. Another possibility is to telephone Raptor Rescue who will recommend one of their 'accredited rehabilitators' or a bird of prey rescue centre in your area. Failing this, they may recommend a falconry/bird of prey centre, a falconer, or someone who just keeps birds. If they do not have anyone in your area (not all the country is covered) then they will give advice on how to make the bird comfortable and advise it is taken to the nearest vet.
Contacting the RSPCA (SSPCA in Scotland)
If you cannot find a rehabilitator or vet who is experienced with birds, the RSPCA should be contacted by telephone (0300 1234 999). However, please be aware that calls to the RSPCA's National Helpline number are currently answered by call-centre staff who primarily deal with enquiries concerning domestic animals. Experience shows that they sometimes have difficulty tailoring their advice to the needs of Barn Owls. RSPCA staff in their wildlife centres are usually very well informed, but direct phone numbers for them can be hard to obtain. The RSPCA do collect injured wild birds, but their drivers cover large areas, are usually very busy and are sometimes unable to respond as quickly as they would like to.
Live owl emergencies - how the Barn Owl Trust can help
As it is based in Devon, the Barn Owl Trust normally only receives Barn Owls found in southwest England; across the rest of Britain casualties are received by a very wide range of independent rehabilitators. The information on this website is extensive and by following the navigation system (to the left <) or the links (on the right >) you should be able to assess the casualty, determine what needs to happen to it next, and get help. If you cannot find a local rehabilitator we should be able to put you in touch with one but not all of the UK is covered.
During normal working hours you can get one-to-one advice by calling us on 01364 653026.
Outside normal working hours (only), call our Live Owl Advice number 07889 594663 PLEASE DO NOT CALL FOR ADVICE THAT CAN BE FOUND ON THIS WEBSITE.
Please note Our Live Owl Advice number is occasionally unavailable due to the limitations of mobile phone reception and is unavailable during Christmas holidays. Please do not call between 6 pm and 8 am if the call can wait until 9 am. Thank you.