Wildlife Center of Virginia for treatment. The adult owl was found in the woods near Staunton, Virginia. The owl’s rescuer watched it attempt to drink from a creek for almost half an hour and when the owl appeared to be in distress, the rescuer captured the bird and brought it into the Center.
In his initial examination Dr. Adam also noted that the Great Horned Owl had very uniquely colored eyes. Instead of having orange or yellow irises, #11-2545 has gray irises in both eyes! The Wildlife Center staff could not find reports of this condition being observed in any other Great Horned Owls, but they are consulting with colleagues in the field. There are a few possible causes for the unique coloration, but most likely this has resulted from a genetic variation.
After a week, the Great Horned Owl’s health and weight had improved enough to allow the Center’s veterinarians to anesthetize it for radiographs. The radiographs revealed three shotgun pellets, each a little less than 2.5 millimeters in diameter, scattered throughout the bird’s body — one in the right wing, one in the left leg, and one in the pelvic region on the left side of the bird. While the pellets are not currently hurting the bird, and do not need to be removed, this likely explains the bird’s cause of admission.
By November 4, the owl was eating whole food and regaining weight. Its attitude has now improved, though there are still some concerns regarding its condition. While the initial neurological symptoms have dissipated, the Center’s veterinarians are still holding back on their optimism until the owl shows signs of remaining healthy for a longer period of time.
December 14 update
The Great Horned Owl has been flying very well over the past couple weeks — the rehabilitation staff is pleased with both its stamina and silent flight. Dr. Miranda would like to see the owl fattened up a little more prior to release, but the rehabilitation staff have tentatively scheduled live prey testing to start on Friday December 16th.
December 19 update
The Great Horned Owl began “mouse school” on Saturday, December 17 — and so far has been passing! His last night of the live prey testing should be December 19. The rehabilitation staff plan on fattening him up for several more days before scheduling the owl for release.
On another note, the center consulted on the unique color of this bird’s eyes with a colleague specializing in ophthalmology. After they ruled out indications of other eye injuries, the ophthalmologist concurred that “these are likely normal variations — but weird."