by Eileen M. Kane
Desert Rivers Audubon
When Liberty Wildlife brought three Great Horned Owls to our March monthly meeting, they also highlighted their orphaned owl fostering program where injured or lost owl chicks are given to the disabled adult owls at Liberty Wildlife to raise until released back into the wilds of metro Phoenix.
Great Horned Owls are especially talented at using hollows and crevices created by other birds, animals and people. The drying, drooping fronds of our landscape palms are a particular favorite of our local Great Horned Owls and here’s where the problems start.
A recurring issue adding to the numbers of very young owls being brought to wildlife rehabilitators is palm pruning. Specifically, the early spring pruning of palms in our residential and municipal landscapes. If homeowners and landscapers would just delay pruning palms by two to three weeks, young owls would have a better chance to fledge and move out of their improvised palm nests.
In fact, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona advises that over-pruning of palms can lead to wind-breaks. The process of pruning can also damage palm trunks–leaving them vulnerable to disease and insects–a situation aggravated by over-pruning.
Fan palms should not be trimmed until the fronds are completely dried out and ready to fall. Date palms should not be trimmed until June or July. Only brown and yellow leaves or spent flower stalks should be removed. Palms damaged by frost should only be pruned after the danger of frost is past, typically late March or April.
The Arizona Association of Landscape Contractors emphasize Sustainable Landscape Management
, asserting best practices for quality results and avoiding the over-pruning resulting in orphaned and injured owls.