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Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 15:11 UK
Tree tricks for low-flying tawny owl with height fear

Troy the Tawny owl
Troy the Tawny owl will not fly about 5ft 10 high.

A tawny owl with a fear of heights is receiving special treatment to help him get over his affliction.

Troy the Tawny Owl was brought to the specialist bird of prey hospital at the Hawk Conservancy Trust near Andover after falling out of his nest last spring.

He was hand-reared for six weeks by the people who found him but this has meant that he is now tame and cannot be returned to the wild.

It also meant he now sees everything from his keeper Gareth Tonen's eyeline - at about 5ft 10in off the ground.

Troy takes part in the centre's educational displays for visitors but unlike other owls, who fly up to into the tree branches, Troy will fly no higher than his handler.

The solution has been to place wooden ladders behind the trees - Gareth climbs up a ladder into the tree, followed by Troy who wants to stay close to his human "best friend".

Ashley Smith, Chief Executive of Hawk Conservancy said: "He's doing really well - he's a star of the display. But we really want to show Troy flying like a Tawny owl would in the wild - through the canopy of the trees."

Imprinted birds

He explained: "Troy will never go back to the wild. Once a bird is imprinted to the degree he is, it's irreparable. You can't really get back to behaving exactly like a wild owl would."

Gareth and owl
Gareth climbs into the tree to attract Troy higher.

Troy's problem has led the trust to issue advice on how the public should deal with young birds out of the nest they may come across in the countryside.

Ashley Smith said: "If you find a young owl, the best thing you can do is leave it alone. The parents will continue to look after it until it can fly. 'Branching' is a natural process - like a toddler learning to walk.

"Or if it is on the ground, get it up into the branch of a tree, but wherever possible don't pick the bird up and take it home."

Injured birds

Tawny owls are the birds most commonly admitted to the trusts' Hilary's Bird of Prey Hospital, followed by Buzzard, Kestrel, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Peregrine, Hobby, Red Kite, Long Eared Owl.

Ashley Smith said: "We get 200 birds year - from May through to September. We try to get them back to the wild as soon as possible and avoid imprinting."

The birds' injuries can consist of broken wings, damaged legs and talons, eye injuries or sometimes just being in very low condition where the bird is malnourished or starving.

Injured birds which are brought to the Trust are usually 'Creche reared' together, "so they know they are owls."

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