Meet the MARS Ambassador Birds

Our non-releasable Ambassador Birds are living out their natural lives comfortably—with room service—in safe and private
enclosures at MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre.

Some of the raptors who have become Ambassadors suffered devastating injuries that prevented them from being returned to the wild, while others have become habituated to humans for various reasons. All have found new purpose helping to educate the public about wild nature. To keep these raptors, MARS applied for permits and continues to meet government regulations for their appropriate care.

Sawyer

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)

Sawyer came to MARS in August 2014 at about a year of age when he sustained damage to his right wing, possibly due to a cat attack. The damage to his wing was severe and the entire wing was surgically amputated.  He was a very brave patient, even trying to bite the vet’s fingers! He is a confident bird whose disposition makes him ideal for classroom presentations.

In 2016 Sawyer’s right eye became inflamed and even though it was treated with daily eye drops, it did not heal.  In September 2017 he underwent surgical removal of his eye.

Sawyer likes to be alone and can get cranky at times.  During the winter cold, he is housed in the MARS hospital building due to his small size and disabilities.  He has a life expectancy of 8-9 years. He eats one mouse each day and weighs about 70 – 100 g.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl COOL FACTS:

  • Very small with large heads that lack ear tufts
  • Has a catlike face and bright yellow eyes
  • Common in forests across northern North America
  • Has a high-pitched too-too-too call
  • Usually eats mice in pieces, over two meals
  • They nest in previously excavated holes usually made by Northern Flickers or Pileated Woodpeckers
  • The female incubates and broods; the male hunts
  • About 18 days after the last egg hatches, the female leaves the nest
  • The male continues bringing food to the nestlings
  • The nest gets very messy after the female leaves

Otus Jr.

Western Screech Owl (Megascops kennicottii kennicottii)

Otus Jr. is an offspring of MARS’ Ambassador bird Otus Sr. who was loaned to a research/breeding program in northern B.C. As Otus Jr. was born into a captive breeding program in 2013, he is non-releasable due to his inability to hunt or protect himself around humans.

Otus likes to rearrange his “furniture” and frequently removes his jesses (thin pliable leather anklets). He is very chatty and often greets people when approached. He has a life expectancy of about 15 years. He eats one mouse each day and weighs about 200 – 250 g.

Western Screech Owl COOL FACTS:

  • Makes a series of hollow toots
  • Can take prey bigger than its own body
  • Diet includes bats, insects and earthworms
  • Invisible when pressing against a tree
  • Live mainly in forested habitats
  • Nest in woodpecker tree cavities
  • Male and female often preen each other
  • Male gets food for female and young in nest
  • Vulnerable to predation from Barred Owls

Lanei

Western Screech Owl (Megascops kennicottii macfarlanei)

 Lanei arrived at MARS in March 2015 from the same research/breeding program as Otus Jr. when he was about 2 years old . He is always resistant to go to “work” and will hang upside down from his roof. But once his plans are foiled, he becomes very calm and enjoys having his picture taken! Like his roommate Otus Jr., he has a life expectancy of about 15 years.  He eats one mouse each day and weighs 175 – 250 g.

Photo: Mackai Sharp

Shakespeare

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Shakespeare was hit by a car in 2003. He lost his left eye and fractured his beak and sternum. It’s also believed that he has decreased or no hearing on his left side. He spent a year and a half in rehabilitation at the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta, British Columbia. (O.W.L.) Wildlife caregivers determined his injuries would prevent him from fending for himself and so it was not possible to return him to the wild.

Originally Shakespeare was adopted by MARS as a foster parent to younger Barred Owls. However, he wasn’t very good in this role. He started training to become an Ambassador bird in 2006 and made his first public appearance 6 months later!

He is often heard calling to local wild owls late in the day and sometimes can be heard making “howler monkey” calls. His age is unknown. His diet is mostly quail, but he is also fed mice as an occasional treat. He weighs about 1 kg.

Barred Owl COOL FACTS:

  • Lives in forests
  • Is most active at night
  • Nests in abandoned cavities in trees
  • Has one brood per year
  • Is hunted by the Great Horned Owl
  • Hoots “Who Cooks for You?” twice
  • Doesn’t migrate
  • Has acute sight and hearing
  • Rips prey apart and eats the head first

Marlowe

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Marlowe came to MARS in the fall of 2019 after hitting a window in Comox in the middle of the night. The home owners found him and brought him to our wildlife hospital the next day. He showed many signs of severe head trauma, and we weren’t sure if he could even see properly. He showed no threat avoidance, and was extremely docile.

He saw several vets who determined there was no reason Marlowe should not be able to see, and that it was most likely the head trauma that was causing him not to react to movement or oncoming threats. He struggled to eat for the first several months with us, and progressed from being force-fed, to handfed, to eventually eating on his own without any help from the caregivers. He has been Shakespeare’s roommate for most of his time at MARS, and the two get along with very well. 

Marlowe has progressed a great deal since arriving with us as a patient, but nowhere near enough to be successfully released into the wild. He gets his name from Christopher Marlowe who was William Shakespeare’s friend, collaborator, and (at times) rival. 

Marlowe is a very gentle bird who was born in the spring of 2019, with an expected lifespan of upwards of 20 years in captivity. He typically weighs about 600 – 700 grams, and eats two mice a day.

Photo: Kiersten Shyian 

Brinley

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

Brinley was in full adult plumage when she was hit by a car in the Lower Mainland in 2005. Her right wing was so badly damaged that part of it had to be amputated. She came to MARS in 2012 from The Raptors wildlife rescue in Duncan.

Brinley is a large bird who can be a bit intimidating, but she is usually calm in public as she is used to working in front of a large audience. She will raise her wings on command to display her amputation. She uses her feet to catch and hold prey. Her feet have a crush force of 400 psi which equals the force of a wolf’s jaw!

She is a calm, patient bird who bonds well with her handlers and depends on them for support while out in the field. Head scratches from her handler are one of her favourite things! She is over 15 years of age with a life expectancy of 30 years. She eats 1/4 quail or two mice each day and weighs about 1.5 – 2.0 kg.

Great Horned Owl COOL FACTS:

  • Is common, mainly nocturnal
  • Has laser eyesight, sonar-like ears
  • Can swivel head 180° in either direction
  • Hunts other owls and hawks
  • Uses vice-like talons to sever spines
  • Is the hated enemy of crows
  • Has ultra-soft feathers that quiet flight
  • Regurgitates fur, teeth & bones
  • Is strongly territorial

Horus

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Horus is a Red-tailed Hawk named after the falcon-headed Egyptian god of the same name. She was found in 2008 hanging around the Quinsam River Hatchery near Campbell River where she was begging for food and in poor physical condition. When she was approached by one of our bird handlers, she jumped to the glove, indicating she was imprinted to humans and probably raised in captivity.

When she was brought to MARS, she was emaciated and suffered from bumblefoot, a type of infection which prevented her from bending her toes to perch or catch prey. MARS developed a cream to cure her foot issue. She is also prone to feather damage as she may not have had a “Mom” to teach her feather maintenance.

Horus is a healthy older bird whose dramatic nature appeals to all visitors. She is at least 14 years old with a life expectancy of 20 years. She eats half a quail each day and weighs about 1.3 kg.

Red Tailed Hawk COOL FACTS:

  • Likes open country and fields
  • Perches on utility poles to spot prey
  • Is often seen roadside
  • Is the most common hawk in Canada
  • Is easy to train, popular with falconers
  • Mates after soaring in high circles
  • Has great eyesight, built to hunt
  • Has a loud, piercing scream
  • Mates for life

Humpty

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Humpty was a pre-fledgling found at the base of a tree and thought to be dead. 5 days later he was noticed to be moving and MARS was called in for rescue. As he had suffered a great fall, his finders named him Humpty.

Upon admission he was found to be suffering from severe dehydration and emaciation. His tail feathers were missing, but slowly grew back within his first year at MARS. It is also believed that he has some mental deficit due to his early injuries. He seldom vocalizes and his flight remains uncertain. His diet consists of poultry, fish and deer meat and he weighs about 3-3.5 kg.

Bald Eagle COOL FACTS:

  • Not really bald, but their white-feathered heads gleam above their brown body
  • Young birds attain adult plumage in about five years
  • Scavenge many meals by harassing other birds or by eating carrion or garbage
  • Eat mainly fish, but also hunt mammals, gulls, and waterfowl
  • Known to play and have been seen passing sticks to each other in midair
  • The largest nest on record was 2.9 meters wide and 6.1 meters tall
  • The oldest recorded bird in the wild was at least 38 years old when it was hit and killed by a car

Hyacinth

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Hyacinth fell from her nest as a pre-fledgling when her nest fell apart. MARS was called and went by boat to the site at Hyacinth Cove on Quadra Island to rescue her.

She suffered multiple fractures in her right wing that were too close to the shoulder to be pinned so her wing was taped for 4 weeks. When another eagle accidentally bumped into her later, the wing was re-fractured. It eventually did heal but has a slight curve in the humerus so she is unable to “soar like an eagle”.

Hy is very vocal and likes to greet her handlers when they enter her enclosure. She is fairly gentle in spite of her size and gets along well with Humpty, her permanent roommate. She also seems to enjoy the company of other eagle patients when they are housed together. Her diet consists of poultry, fish and deer meat and she weighs about 3.5 – 4.0 kg.