The two “balls of fluff” were in danger when they found on the side of a path after falling 25 feet from their nest
Two baby tawny owls who were rescued after falling from their nest adopted a cuddly toy as a surrogate mum.
The two “balls of fluff” were in danger when they found on the side of a path after falling 25 feet.
Fearing they were going to be eaten by dogs a dad out cycling with his son saved the stricken pair.
Andy Tawny, 44, and his son Ben, 12, used a bike helmet as a makeshift nest.
The chicks were taken to a rescue centre where they were given the pretend owl in their aviary to make them feel safe.
They immediately snuggled in to the owl pillow and slept either side of their new mum – even crying out if she was taken away.
The owls were found in the Newmillerdam country park in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and taken in by Wise-Owl rescue, who this year have taken in 30 tawny owls.
Now after being fed on a diet of mice and chicks from an owl hand puppet,they are due to be released back into the wild.
Wayne Auty, 50, who runs Wise-Owl rescue in Huddersfield with his wife Katrina, 32, took the owls in and believes they wouldn’t have survived another hour had they not been rescued.
Wayne gave the three-week old tiny babies, who weighed just four oz, a cuddly toy version of the mother.
Wayne said: “They were real babies when we took them in, they were very small indeed. They were just like two balls of fluff and were very vulnerable.
“They would have been used to a busy nest with their mum coming and going and siblings around them, so we wanted to ensure they felt safe and secure.
“That was why we gave them a little cuddly toy to play the part of a mum to cuddle up to. They both really took the toy straight away.
“They cuddled up to it to go to sleep. It was fantastic to see.’
He said they even called for it when they took it away.
When the chicks were found, there were dogs nearby and one had to be restrained while Andy rescued the fluffy duo.
He carried them 2.5 miles in his bike helmet, so they could be taken in by Wayne.
Andy said: “At first my son and I just didn’t know whether to pick them up or not, but I thought if I leave them there, they’re going to die.
“You can’t leave something so little and fluffy to just lay there on the ground, it’s human instinct to pick them up and try and take care of them.
“I couldn’t leave them where they were, they were far too young. It’s a popular walking spot for people with dogs so they would have been eaten.”
Wayne said: “The owl’s nest was very high up in a tree and the babies had been pushed out. They were just little balls of fluff that could have been killed easily.
“It was a pine forest, so there was absolutely no cover for the owls and it’s a dog walking area, so the next dog that came along would certainly have eaten them.”
Wayne said the owls have not been named so that he and his wife don’t become too attached, as the owls have to be released into the wild.
Wayne said: “They will need to stay with us for at least another month, but they will go back into the wild eventually.
“If they are even slightly hungry, their eyes will be watching us as we walk across the room and will never leave us, and they can be very noisy when they want food: they are constantly hungry!
“They are very cute. They bob up and down and get quite excited.”
The owls are growing fast, having already doubled in weigh to 8oz each, and Wayne hopes to return the babies to their natural habitat.
Wayne said: “We are hoping to get them back out into the wild soon.
“There is an older tawny owl in the rescue centre and we have been using her to teach the babies how to hunt so that they can be prepared when they are released.
“They are now standing on perches and we are using pieces of string to drag the food to encourage them to hunt.
“If they are ready in September or October then they will be released then, otherwise it might be next spring.”