Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cross-eyed owl finds happiness

She may only have limited vision but Lucy the owl's disability hasn't stopped her from finding the perfect perch in life.

The five-year-old Western Screech Owl can only see a short distance following an attack when she was just a fledgling.

The tiny bird, who stands just six inches high and weighs just over eight ounces, was discovered under her nest site in Santa Barbara, California.

Both her eyes had been punctured by a predator, possibly a small hawk or a corvid.

Unable to survive in the wild, Lucy is now an invaluable 'staff' member at the Ojai Raptor Center in California where she helps to raise other orphaned youngsters.

The small owl, who has a 12-inch wingspan, has only limited vision.

Kim Stroud, director of the Ojai Raptor Center, comments: "She can see maybe 10 or 15 feet but we don't think she can identify objects. She wouldn't survive in the wild."

However, despite her size and disability Lucy could live for a further 15 years.

Kim, 46, both founded and runs the Ojai Raptor Center, a non-profit rescue and rehabilitation centre for injured birds in Ventura County, an area of Southern California that boasts millions of acres of national parks.

And little Lucy has proven to be a valuable resource at the centre.

"She's a wonderful mother," says Kim, 46. "She lays eggs every year, infertile of course, but whenever screech owl eggs are brought in from the wild we have switched them. The same with foundling baby screeches. Lucy has raised 15 of them so far".

Despite, or maybe because of, her excellent maternal instincts the tiny predator can be fierce and protective too.

Kim comments: "She tolerates handling, but she's very vocal when she's mad. She flies at me when she has eggs or babies, or sometimes even when I go into feed her."


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