PROWLS and Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society treat northern saw-whet owl

Northern saw-whet owl

“Extremely ferocious!”

That was the remark made by Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) in Delta when Powell River Orphaned Wildlife Society president Merrilee Prior phoned to check on the condition of this northern saw-whet owl.

Picked up on Old Mine Road north of Powell River and surrounded by a thick pile of feathers indicating a cat attack, she was breathing through her beak, expressing severe stress.

Back at PROWLS she was started on a course of antibiotics and arrangements were made with Pacific Coastal Airlines to catch the next flight to Vancouver. She had time to grab a mouse from Merrilee’s hand and gobble it down before departure.

Upon arrival in Vancouver, she was transported to OWL, where they specialize in raptors. Her rehabilitation seemed long (almost seven weeks) but she returned to her territory and flew up into an arbutus tree to hide.

The saw-whet is one of the smallest of the northern owls, weighing about as much as a robin. Looking much like a gnome, its head can appear as big as its body.

When its super soft feathers are filled with air, much like a duvet just after being shaken, this airy quality helps maintain its silent flight in the night sky as it swoops down to catch its favourite prey: deer mice.

Other “weapons” include asymmetrical ears for acute, 360-degree hearing and the ability to stand its light coloured feathers surrounding its beak on end. This makes its face look dark, immense and terrifying, ready to scoop up whatever it is pursuing.

Preyed upon by hawks, falcons, and larger raptors, the saw-whet is extremely nocturnal and seldom seen by humans unless hurt and vulnerable.