Above: The ‘two Lauras’ were back together once again during a rather special owl experience with a black barn owl. Coda Falconry’s long-term plan for the owl, named Eclipse, is to build on his confidence and include him in its flying displays as well as experience days Photo: Coda Falconry


C&AB’S “TWO LAURAS” reunited last month to “road test” an extremely rare owl on its first woodland walk.

Former C&AB staff member Laura Keens and deputy editor Laura Welch attended a Woodland Walk and Owl Flying Experience at Coda Falconry, Essex, where they met Eclipse, a five-year-old black barn owl (melanistic).

Experts say melanism occurs in one in 100,000 barn owls due to a recessive genetic mutation relating to feather colour. They are extremely rare in the wild because parents tend to eject them from the nest at an early age.

Falconry director Sarah-Jane Manarin, who led the hour-long walk, said: “Eclipse does have poorer vision than our standard barn owls, so it could be that the parents know that a melanistic youngster won’t survive and therefore reject it before they waste much effort trying to raise it.”

Captive-bred Eclipse has been with Mrs Manarin for just over a year. “He was owned by a falconry centre that had stopped flying him, so he had been in an aviary at a fat weight for about a year prior to him being bought by us,” explained Mrs Manarin, who also teaches about the importance of captivity for conservation reasons.

It took the centre two months to persuade Eclipse to fly outside, because “he needed to trust our team and the new environment,” said Mrs Manarin. “We’ve been trying to gauge whether he would trust all of the new faces being around him and thankfully, he absolutely loves the new people who are prepared to give him food!”

For details on the Coda Falconry experiences, visit: https://codafalconry.co.uk

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