Meet Bert and Ernie, a pair of tiny owls who are SORCO raptor rehabilitation centre in Oliver's first patients of the new year.
The pair are saw whet owls, the second smallest species of owl that lives in the South Okanagan, behind pygmy owls. Adults weigh in the range of 100 grams or less.
Bert and Ernie were found on the side of the road, one in Oliver and one in Penticton, on Jan. 3. They seemed distressed, so a passerby brought them to SORCO, where they have been monitored ever since.
“I think they were more stressed and scared than anything, but we’ve just been watching them to be sure. But they’re definitely ready to go,” SORCO manager Dale Belvedere said.
The pair are just two of the many owls and raptors the rescue helps every year.
In 2020, the rescue received 105 birds for care, a slightly lower number than the average 150. Belvedere isn’t sure what caused the dip, but one theory is that with fewer people out on the roads travelling due to COVID-19, fewer birds were hit by cars, one of the major causes of injury they see at SORCO.
But unfortunately the rescue is facing some tough times, with COVID-19 robbing them of their major annual fundraiser, an open house in the spring that draws crowds to the rescue to view and meet some of the birds up close, and usually nets about $30,000 in one day.
That was cancelled in 2020, and while Belvedere is hopeful provincial guidelines will allow for a version of the event in 2021, it’s tenuous.
“We’re hoping that if we can’t have the open house, that people who would come down would send in their donation that they would give at the gate,” she said. “That money is dedicated to strictly bird care, so our vet bills, our food, our medication.”
Bert and Ernie will be released back into the wild at the end of this week. To find out more about SORCO or donate to help them continue saving South Okanagan birds of prey, click here.