Pinehurst resident rescues owl 'crying like a baby'

A juvenile barred owl was rescued off Highway 211 in Pinehurst near Moore Regional Hospital Sunday evening. It is not known if the raptor will survive its injuries.

It was heard “crying like a baby” in a residential backyard by a homeowner who called North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) Officer Zack Lemonds.

Barred owls are also known as “hoot” owls for their rich baritone calls, “hoo, hoo, hoo-hoo; hoo, hoo; hoo, hoo, hoo-aw” to their mates. They also scream. Due to nesting patterns, it is believed they mate for life and are monogamous. Barred owls are common in this area and prefer woodlands and swamps with mature coniferous trees.

Lemonds said the raptor was “probably” going for mice after “food trash” was thrown onto the highway when it was struck by a vehicle.

Lemonds called Holly’s Nest Animal Rescue, one of only four licensed wildlife rescue organizations in the state.

Byron and Kim Wortham own and operate Holly’s Nest, a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization, in Sanford. The team has a network of wildlife rehabilitation volunteers across the state. Holly’s Nest has experience, skill, and the required licenses to handle raptors and other species. 

“Ninety-five percent of the injuries in birds is from trash,” Byron Wortham said. “Seldom anything else. Of the 63 birds last year, only three were not from a man-made issue.”

He took the injured owl to Carolina Veterinary, in Sanford, to receive treatment. There were multiple fractures found in the right wing.

Pinehurst resident rescues owl

Dr. Julie Davis of Carolina Veterinary explains the main fracture of the injured barred owl.

The external wound was dressed with an antibiotic and wrapped with gauze in a figure-8 shape to support the injury. The quiet barred owl weighs only 1.32 pounds, but it took many hands to safely care for the patient.

If the owl does not get an infection, and the wound heals properly, there is a good chance of its survival and being released back into the wild.

Pinehurst man rescues owl 'crying like a baby'

Dr. Davis and her team provide gentle care for the injured owl.

Quality care is not a guarantee, however, of survival.

For example, Holly’s Nest had brought in an injured barred owl on Christmas Day to Davis’ veterinary office, and the raptor was treated for a similar injury on the wing. It was given antibiotics, shelter, and its dietary needs were met each day. He brought this raptor in for another wellness check on Jan. 25, and the veterinarian did not have good news.

The Christmas day owl was a victim of “food trash” on the highway and was euthanized. Its remains will be cremated.

The average lifespan of a barred owl in the wild is 10 years. In captivity, it is up to 23 years.

Pinehurst man rescues owl

Dr. Julie Davis cradles the euthanized Christmas Day barred owl at her office.

Wortham also brought the veterinarian a red-tailed hawk he had attained Saturday from Wake County.

The red-tailed hawk’s radiograph did not reveal any lead shot from gunfire, and there were no visible injuries.

When Wortham said that he attained the raptor on Saturday and that it had been eating well, Davis said, “he’ll probably be okay then,” but that it seemed to have been “poisoned.”

It was found by a driver on the side of the road, and the Wake County driver had called Holly’s Nest for assistance.

Trash, food trash, and caustics along highways are a large source for injuries and deaths in birds.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act charges anyone convicted of killing a hawk or owl without federal permission up to $15,000 and six months in prison per offense.

Pinehurst resident rescues barred owl 'crying like a baby'

 Wortham holds a hyper-salivating red-tailed hawk at Carolina Veterinary.

Holly’s Nest is the state’s largest deer rescuer and assists a wide range of wildlife as far away as the Outer Banks. Wortham has been taught several lifesaving skills by Dr. Davis, including how to tube feed.

Caring for raptors is an expensive endeavor.

Wortham uses his United Parcel Service retirement to fund Holly’s Nest. They are open 24/7 and can be reached at (919) 499-7006, [email protected], and at P.O. Box 4086 Sanford, NC, 27331.

“People can donate through our Facebook page or on our website at,” Wortham said. “We are getting a TV show with Ballard Productions who worked on the Matlock series, and we’ll be on PBS.”

Pinehurst man rescues barred owl 'crying like a baby'

Dr. Davis of Carolina Veterinary tubes a red-tailed hawk Jan. 25, 2021 for hydration.

“Pharmacies are very expensive,” Wortham said. “Once they get home, I spend much more money on keeping them alive with carnivore care which is tube feeding and then frozen mice which is also very expensive. We just got in an $800 shipment last week.”

If an injured animal is found in Moore County, call NCWRC Officer Lemonds at (910) 617-0680. The officer will help determine if the animal is suitable for rescue and will assist the animal too. The least amount of human interaction is best when helping injured wildlife.

“The biggest thing is to not stress the animal,” Lemonds said, “If it’s in the road, try to get it out but be careful. They [raptors] have sharp talons, and they are strong. Best thing is to put it in a dark, quiet and calm place with no barking dogs.”

Feature photo: Byron Wortham of Holly’s Nest cradles an injured barred owl at Carolina Veterinary in Sanford. “They really are like little babies,” Wortham said.

~Article, photos, and videos by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Stephanie M. Sellers.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email