"We found her to simply be extremely obese," said rescuers of why the grounded owl couldn't fly

By Benjamin VanHoose
January 30, 2020 01:41 PM
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It’s back to the skies for one overweight owl who, not long ago, was considered too fat to fly.

On Wednesday, representatives from the U.K.’s Suffolk Owl Sanctuary shared on Facebook the story of an owl, which they rescued from a ditch on Jan. 3, who was unable to lift itself off the ground and into the air.

“Usually in these instances we assume injury of sorts that is preventing the owl from flying — occasionally becoming wet causes them to become grounded too — so you can imagine our surprise that when we examined her, we found her to simply be extremely obese,” wrote the animal rescue center.

The bird weighed in at a “rather chunky” 245 grams, according to the rescuers, which is about a third heavier than a female owl of this species should be.

“She was unable to fly effectively due to the fatty deposits around her body,” the sanctuary team wrote, adding that it’s “extremely unusual” for the birds to pack on this much extra weight in the wild.

Rescuers then questioned whether the owl had possibly escaped from captivity, perhaps explaining how it became overweight.

Owl
Suffolk Owl Sanctuary

“We therefore decided to observe the bird over a period of weeks for signs of a life in captivity,” they wrote. “Familiarity with common foods used in aviaries such as bright yellow chicks (which won’t often be found naturally in the English countryside) are a telltale sign.”

The team soon determined that the owl was wild based on the way she took more to prey found in her habitat. Turns out it was an unlikely case of “natural obesity.”

“After further investigation, we also found that the area where she was rescued was crawling with field mice and voles due to the warm and wet winter we experienced in December,” wrote the sanctuary.

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While under the care of the Suffolk facilities, the bird was placed on a “strict diet” that helped her shed enough weight to get the wind beneath her wings once again.

Rufus Samkin, head falconer at the sanctuary, told CNN that the animal was “significantly larger” than the owls they typically see.

“It’s been a really good year for prey species, so I think she’s basically just massively overindulged, got really plump and then got caught in a wet spell and was too fat to fly,” he said.

He added: “She definitely needed to go on a diet — hopefully she’s learned a thing or two.”

On Thursday, the owl — affectionately and appropriately named Plump — was released by the rescuers, flying up out of a box and into a nearby tree.

“Here she is upon release, flying gracefully off into the British countryside at a much healthier, and happier weight,” the sanctuary wrote on Facebook, sharing footage of the triumphant moment.