Together with our raptor rehab expert Eagle_Eye, we have made preparations to provide the owlets with what we regard as the best chance of successful fledging and survival possible.
At this stage, the owlets are almost ready to venture out of the box for the first time. They are already exhibiting their natural instincts for pouncing and playful enactment of skills necessary to hunt in the wild, together with healthy "flapercizing" and other wing toning antics with which they will soon discover their perching balance and that they can even overcome gravity!
Absent continued and sufficient food deliveries from the parents, we will continue to supplement treats in close consultation with our licensed expert to ensure healthy development and sufficient nourishment (including all the water they need that's contained in the rodents consumed). The babies must learn to hunt and kill by recognizing live prey as food. To this end, we have devised a program that will give the owlets the best chance of survival in the wild with no human contact. They are healthy and strong and sufficiently developed so as not to require any hands-on intervention, protection and warmth from the elements, or nurse-feeding such as in the case of very young babies who cannot fend for themselves. Options related to "rescue" are inappropriate for a number of other reasons as well - these owls have the safety and protection of their box, they are in a territory that still has pre-claim by the parents (few other competing raptors), and the lesson plans that we have devised may provide the owls with the best chance of successful survival.
We think that these plans far outweigh the option and trauma of being captured, bundled off to unfamiliar surrounds, placed in a large flight cage with only dead rodents being offered, no chance of a parent still able to show up (screeches are now heard overnight and one delivery was made by a parent on Friday), and then being let free out the door to be shooed off into a territory likely to contain other and older released owls - chances for success could be slim.
The next stage will be to present dark colored rodents, more representative of the prey found in the wild. As the owls become adept at these skills, the feeding box will be lowered a few rungs on the ladder so that they will need to fly down to it. They don't get their graduation certificate until they are able to hunt food that is hidden from direct sight (cammo rodents in amongst grass and other hiding places in the feeding box), using their keen hearing skills to locate prey rather than by sight alone.
Time and patience is obviously needed but we're willing to see this through! Be prepared is what they say, so we're planning for whatever is needed - but best scenario of course is that Mel and Sydney are able to resume their duties and teach these lessons to their babies, so let's see what happens and know that the best will be done under the circumstances that prevail.