Glenn Moore was at the wheel heading from Westfield to Freehold with his mom, Dayle, and his kids Gabe, 17, and Jessica, 11, who was set to appear in a dance program that evening at a local church. It was around 5p.m. when something hit the car with a “thud,” startling him and the rest of his family.
“I immediately turned my car around to see what it was, only to find a tiny lifeless owl lying there,” Glenn Moore said. “The little guy was on his back with his wings spread out, apparently dead.” As he got closer, he could see the owl was barely breathing, and it wasn’t moving.
Dayle Moore described her son’s initial reaction: “When he got out of the car with Gabe, I heard him shout, ‘Oh my God, I hit an owl!’ He was very upset. We all were.”
Her grandson Gabe very gently brought the seemingly lifeless owl into the car. It was only a short drive to his mother, Andreia Moore’s, house where her Aunt Esther and two cousins were visiting from Brazil, wanting to see Jessica dance but never dreaming she’d enter the house clutching an owl.
Once inside, Dayle Moore, a seasoned registered nurse, examined the tiny owl closely on the kitchen table.
“I checked his head, wings, chest and talons, looking for injuries but there appeared to be none, which was reassuring,” she said. “Then Andreia began to massage the owl very gently. After about five minutes the little fellow sat up with his eyes wide open looking all around as though he just woke up. Andreia’s aunt began praying in Portuguese for the owl to survive and fly away. As if on command, the owl spread his wings and flew to the top of a kitchen window ledge.”
As various family members held the owl, he never dug his sharp talons into anyone. The aunt held him. Gabe held him. So did Jessica, who wanted to adopt him until it was explained that it would not be fair to take a wild bird out of its natural habitat. Besides, it is also illegal.
“She has such a compassionate heart for all animals,” said her grandmother who fed water to the bird with an eye dropper. Dayle Moore has experience with a canary at home which has been thriving on her porch in Westfield for more than a dozen years, serenading anyone who visits.
Once the owl continued flying around the kitchen, the consensus was that he could be returned to the wild but how, when and where? Dayle Moore worried, “We didn’t know whether to take him back where we found him just a few blocks away. Would his mother miss him? Would she find him? What if we had left him in the street? Someone could have run over him, but we were all in synch that we had to do something.”
Glenn Moore made the decision, stating confidently: “He’s good to go.”
He took the little owl outside to a tall pine tree, where he placed him on a branch. He didn’t fall. He seemed fine. Following dinner, the owl was still perched there with no signs of any distress but skepticism reigned about leaving him behind when it was time to head to the church. Jessica had been rehearsing for weeks and they didn’t want to miss her debut. She did not disappoint.
“We were so proud of her performance because we knew how upset she was about the owl,” said her grandmother.
When they returned, Dayle Moore said, “We were all so happy to find the owl hadn’t left.”
But since owls are nocturnal, it was no big surprise the next morning to find he was gone. Still, “what ifs” abounded until a bit of online sleuthing led to the Life History of North American Birds of Prey, Vol. II, A.C. Bent, Dover, NY, where the author explained that owls have incredible vision, their eyes 100 times sharper than a human’s. Because their eyes are fixed in their sockets, they can whip their heads 270 degrees around which gives the illusion that they have the ability to turn their heads in a complete circle. They can spot prey from a great distance just as their acute hearing enables them to hear the tiny squeak of a mouse or other small mammal far away.
These comforting facts made it reasonable for the family to assume that the baby owl and his mother were ultimately reunited. Glenn Moore summed up the experience: “This was a sweet ending to a near tragedy for this awesome creature. We’ll never forget him.”
NOTE: When an injured wild bird is found, it is best to call The Raptor Trust where they rehabilitate every kind of wild bird from hawks to falcons and eagles in their veterinary hospital. They also provide advice on injured local wild birds like robins and cardinals. Located in Millington, they have daily tours. email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 908-647-2353.