20 December 2020
Some better news
Karin from the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital contacted me with the results of the postmortems she performed on the two dead owls. Unfortunately, they had not been frozen and the resulting decomposition meant that she was unable to test for some possibilities. She was however able to rule out rodenticides (secondary poisoning); Trichomoniasis and injuries as causes of death. The alimentary tracts of both birds were however completely empty and she suggested that I provide supplementary feeding in case hunger/starvation was involved. She provided a bag of frozen day-old chicks and I thawed four to try and feed to the chicks later.
At 16:15, one of the chicks left the Cabbage Tree and flew to the window ledge that had been the regular perch of the male. It was clearly hungry and although it was still broad daylight, it was begging loudly. I threw three of the thawed chicks out onto the roof, and then tried to drop the 4th out the window onto the ledge next to the chick. Unfortunately I disturbed it and it flew up onto the wall – where it immediately noticed the dead day-old chicks. After a few minutes, it pounced . . . ‘killed’ a chick, and then strode off towards cover with it in its bill. It then mantled its ‘prey’ with its spread wings (hiding it from other raptors or crows) before hopping onto the wall. I expected it to bolt down its meal, but instead the owl took its time – tearing off several large chunks before swallowing what was left. I’m not sure if this bird has previously lost food to another bird – maybe a crow, but throughout its meal it kept stopping to intently search the sky overhead. At least one of the chicks knows what to do . . . and has had something to eat!
And a further update – the owl chick has just taken a second one!
By Geoff Lockwood