Video/Gallery: Tawny owl chick hatches two months early at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary after mild winter
11:32 24 February 2014
With its little beak and claws this two-week old tawny owl chick has amazed handlers at an owl sanctuary as the birds usually hatch later in the year.
The cute chick, called Valentine, is still many months away from being able to fend for itself and is being cared for at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, near Stowmarket.
The owls tend to hatch in late March/April but this fluffy creature would have been slowly developing from the first week in January, according to centre manager Andy Hulme.
Now Valentine, who was found on Tuesday morning in the grounds of West Suffolk Hospital, has a healthy appetite for a diet of mice.
“We were gobsmacked when we opened the box and saw a tawny owl because it’s so early,” Mr Hulme said.
“I have been here at the owl sanctuary for 17 years and never come across a tawny owl chick at this time of year.
“Tawny owls do not usually lay eggs until March. I think this has happened because of the mild weather; it’s totally unexpected.”
Valentine will need to have as little human contact as possible and will be kept in a covered enclosure when it is old enough to be on its own.
“It is very healthy and strong, it fed well on Tuesday night. It’s either blown out or fallen out of a tree,” Mr Hulme added.
He expects the chick to be cared for by handlers for several weeks before it is old enough to hunt for its own food. The chick, which is not mature enough to have developed a sex, will eventually be taken to a “Hack Box” in the wild.
It will still be given food but will be able to fly in its own habitat to hunt for its own prey before it decides to leave the box for good.