Schenectady County

Prognosis good for injured snowy owl

Life in the big city hasn’t been easy for a visiting snowy owl.
Wildlife rehabilitator Sara McDaniels of Gloversville cares for a snowy owl found injured on the General Electric campus in Schenectady.
Wildlife rehabilitator Sara McDaniels of Gloversville cares for a snowy owl found injured on the General Electric campus in Schenectady.

Life in the big city hasn’t been easy for a visiting snowy owl.

The bird of prey first spotted in Rotterdam several weeks ago has turned up injured at the General Electric campus in Schenectady. Security guards found the bird —also called a great white owl —on the ground and in distress on Tuesday.

The guards contacted members of the North Country Wild Care, who decided to bring the bird to a veterinarian in Ballston Spa. The bird apparently dislocated part of its wing and sustained a minor head injury.

“Near as we can surmise he ran into something, whether he clipped a building or ran into a car,” said North Country member Eric Brown. “There’s no telling, since nobody saw it happen. They only saw him on the ground.”

The vet was able to mend the wing, but the bird will need to stay in captivity at least until February. For now, the owl has taken up residence at Brown’s home in Duanesburg, where it remains confined in a cage so that it doesn’t attempt to use the damaged wing.

So far, the bird has responded well to treatment and is expected to make a full recovery. Brown said the creature polished off five mice and two small rats Thursday, which is an indication that it’s starting to recover from the accident.

The bird is also starting to regain its “owl-tude” as Brown likes to call it. The once quiet creature is now snapping and hissing, which is a sign that it’s feeling a lot better.

“He’s a lot more alert and feisty than he was when he got here,” he said.

The snowy owl is one of the largest and heaviest of its species, measuring between 20 and 28 inches in length and 50 to 60 inches in wingspan. The bird typically nests in the tundra of Alaska and Canada in North America, but have been known to winter in the United States.

The owl found at GE weighs about three pounds, but has an estimated wing span of more than four feet. Brown said the bird’s one healthy wing is easily longer than his arm.

Brown has also come to appreciate the talon strength of his resident owl. He said the crushing grip of the still-weakened owl was enough to make him wince even while he was wearing a protective leather glove with padding.

“I don’t know what the pounds per square inch is, but it’s a lot,” he said of the grip.

North Country treats a variety of different wild animals, including many different species of owls.

The nonprofit organization focuses on home-based wildlife rehabilitation and has volunteers in nine counties across the Capital Region.

Brown said he’s cared for a variety of different owl species, but none like the snowy owl.

He said the bird’s pure white feathers are almost angelic.

“It’s really majestic to see,” he said.

To learn more about North Country Wild Care or to donate to its cause, visit www.northcountrywildcare.org.

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