Have you seen owls out and about in San Francisco? Well we have them. And three barn owls recently found their way into the Church of 8 Wheels roller disco on Fillmore Street — formerly known as Sacred Heart Parish.
It's not clear when the owls arrived in the church. But roller-skating impresario Rev. David Miles, a.k.a. GodFather of Skate, posted some video to Facebook on Feb. 12 of two owls in the rafters of the building appearing to "dance" to the music he was playing during an evening of roller disco, and this very much alarmed some owl experts.
"I just couldn't believe what I was looking at then when I saw him land, he landed next to another owl, they had perched themselves right near the DJ booth. It was amazing," Miles says, speaking to ABC 7.
But Alison Hermance, director of communications for WildCare Wildlife Hospital in San Rafael says, "That is not an animal dancing or enjoying himself. That's a very stressed wild animal trying to use his senses and triangulate and figure out what is happening."
The owls seem to have become trapped in the church after likely entering through holes in the stained glass, and then spent five to seven days there without food or water. ("They will really enthusiastically investigate anything that looks like a hole that could be a potential nesting site," Hermance explained to ABC 7.)
As WildCare explains, in a blog post:
Barn Owls have incredibly sensitive hearing and eyesight. A Barn Owl can hear the patter of a field mouse's feet up to a football field's length away! The disc of feathers around the owl's face funnels sound to his asymmetrical ears, allowing him to triangulate on prey.
The owls’ head-bobbing might look like dancing, but it is actually the owls trying to make sense of their surroundings while contending with the assault of the loud disco music, voices and flashing lights. The birds had been stuck in the building for at least five days, possibly longer, making the need to rescue them all the more dire.
As ABC 7 reports, Bay Raptor Rescue assisted with catching the two owls — and then a third owl who showed up later, or was previously hiding. The whole process required seven trapping sessions, as these guys were difficult to trap. And despite being given IV fluids and immediate veterinary care, one of the first two owls died within two days of the rescue.
After three weeks of recuperation, the two surviving owls were recently released back to an owl house that's been installed up on the church's bell tower — and the holes in the windows have since been patched up. And Melanie Piazza tells ABC 7 that her team is hoping they've made a "love match" between these two, given that this is breeding and nesting season for the birds.