ST. PAUL, MN (CBS/WCCO) -- A Snowy Owl is recovering at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, thanks to an innovative procedure to give him a feather transplant.
The bird came to Minnesota after being injured in Washington, DC. He had burned flight feathers and may have also been hit by a bus. The Raptor Center has an international reputation for handling cases like this.
The young Snowy Owl may have been keeping warm on a Washington DC chimney, when things got too hot. Lori Arent with the center said, "...What appears to be a spontaneous eruption of heat, & they jump up, & open their wings to fly, and the heat is so intense it just singes all those feathers ..." And burning these big feathers makes them useless for flying.
The raptor center saves flight feathers from bird patients that do not survive. Those feathers can then be used to get birds like the DC owl back into the air. Arent describes what she did saying, "... I basically took about two inches of bamboo for each feather & I whittled it so that half an inch would fit into the hollow shaft of the new feather, the replacement feather, and then I did that for all the feathers I was going to replace. When the bird was out on the table, I then fit the new feathers so they'd be the right length, and then I whittled the rest of it so that it would fit inside the shaft that remains on the bird. Then once they're all fitted, I then glued them in using a 5-minute epoxy."
That Snowy Owl should molt in the months ahead, and grow new flight feathers of his own.
His transplanted feathers should allow him to be released, as soon as he regains his strength for flight.