|November 17, 2004|
Recovering snowy owl may be released soon
Snowy owl next to Terrace Wall, Nov. 17, 2004
Two things about the snowy owl that collapsed on campus recently: first, it's a female; second, she's put on some weight since starting recovery at a local vet and may be released as early as next week, Dec. 6.
Plans are to release her near the Canadian border, according to Mike Hilton of Campus Safety, who has been monitoring the bird's progress.
The brilliant white arctic raptor with bright gold eyes made a stop on campus on Wednesday morning, Nov. 17, delighting students, staff and a newspaper photographer who happened by.
First spotted by Dennis Chotkowski of facilities on the south end of campus early Wednesday morning, the raptor made a low flight to the ground below Terrace Wall near the College flagpole.
Ed Teller and Mike Hilton from Campus Safety went to the scene where a small group of students had gathered and summoned Prof. Emeritus Carl George, whose expertise covers birds of prey.
Though it appeared intact, the owl was "pretty frail" and probably hadn't eaten for some time, Prof. George reported. A staffer from the state Department of Environmental Conservation captured the bird to take it to a veterinarian, he said.
The bird was well south of its normal range in the arctic tundra, Prof. George said, adding that birds can greatly extend their range if food supply (in this case small rodents) is scarce, a phenomenon known as an irruption.
This was apparently not the first campus visit by Nyctea scandiaca. George said that colleagues recall a snowy owl perched atop the Nott Memorial about 20 years ago.
The professor, who has seen a number of snowy owls in the wild, said he marveled at seeing one so close. "Those large bright gold eyes that look so placidly," he said. "They're almost ethereal in their gaze."
A check with the vet by Hilton on Tuesday, Nov. 23, revealed that the bird, a female, had gained nearly a half pound during recovery. It may be released next week, he said.
Expenses are absorbed by the vet, Hilton noted. Those who would like to contribute may send donations to: The Animal Hospital, 2 Rocking Horse Lane, Guilderland, NY 12159 c/o Union College Snowy Owl.