Because Phantom was raised in captivity and imprinted on humans, she can never be released. She simply doesn't know how to be a barn owl. The benefit is that she is very comfortable around people and everything that comes with us - noise, cars, music, dogs. Programs are less stressful for her than for our other birds.
We think Phantom is female because of the buff color and speckles on her breast. Males tend to be whiter overall.
In early 2023, we discovered that Phantom had severe damage to the bones in her knees. We consulted with two experienced raptor veterinarians locally and with the vets at The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. None had seen this before and they could not say what had caused it except that it was not an injury. It could have been caused by disease early in her life or it could have been congenital. But it was clear that it was getting worse. Because she still had a good quality of life and did not seem to be in pain - just a bit unsteady - we retired her from doing programs to let her live her best life for as long as she could. We will be forever grateful to a good friend for providing the "hospice" care that kept her comfortable, safe, and loved through her final months. Phantom passed away on December 7, 2023. In her short life, Phantom brought great joy to us and everyone she met! Our memories of the beautiful little owl with the heart shaped face will live in our hearts always. Fly high, beautiful girl!
Fly high, sweet girl!
Phantom All Grown Up!
Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Phantom is a barn owl. She was hatched in captivity on March 28, 2020 and came to the Secret Garden when she was just a few weeks old. Phantom is the only captive bred bird at the Secret Garden. We prefer to give a good home to a wild bird that has been injured and can't be returned to the wild because of a permanent disability. They come to us through local wildlife rehabilitators when they are healthy and we can be sure they will have a good quality of life as Wildlife Ambassadors. But rehabilitators see very few injured barn owls. That's because there are very few in the wild. Barn owl populations have been declining in many regions due to loss of hunting habitat and nesting sites. We wanted to tell the barn owl's story and share information about what all of us can do to support a healthy barn owl population and reverse the decline. But to really reach people, we needed a barn owl. Phantom took the job!
Phantom was just a fluffy little nestling when we got her but quickly grew into a beautiful young barn owl. Her first days with us were spent in a laundry basket nest. When she started to perch on the edge of the basket, we moved her to a play area on the floor with an absolutely perfect hide box from Costco. She's full grown now and living in a spacious 8 x 12 shed built specially for her.
Phantom's play area with her Costco hide box!
Building Phantom's House During COVID
Phantom admiring her reflection.
Phantom (March 28, 2020 - December 7, 2023)