Did you overindulge over the holiday period? Well, you can have some sympathy for this little owl that was rescued because it had become too fat to fly. Oh, the shame.
The chubby owl – aptly named “Plump” – was found in a ditch earlier this month by the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary in the UK. It was initially assumed she had been injured or that her soaking wet wings were impeding her flight, but a closer inspection revealed that the female owl was, in fact, just overweight. In the words of the sanctuary, she was "extremely obese".
Back at the sanctuary, vets discovered the owl weighed around 245 grams (0.54 pounds), around a third more than average. This excess weight was so significant that it was affecting her ability to fly. The owl belongs to a common species called the little owl (Athene noctua) that lives across much of the temperate parts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa.
It’s almost unheard of for wild birds to become severely overweight, let alone birds of prey, so this situation is most peculiar. Experts at the sanctuary suspected the owl might have been kept captive as an aviary bird, where it was overfed before escaping into the wild. However, after some experimentation, they concluded that this wasn’t the case – poor Plump had no one to blame but herself.
While the owl was recovering at the sanctuary, they watched as she reacted to foods used in aviaries, such as bright yellow chicks, which you wouldn’t find naturally in the English countryside. To their surprise, she was more keen to take wild food types, such as dark mice.
“We are confident this may just be an unusual 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,” Suffolk Owl Sanctuary wrote in a Facebook post.
“She has since spent a few weeks with us under observation and been placed on a strict diet.”
Plump’s weight loss routine has worked wonders. After shedding the pounds and gaining her old flight skills, she was released back into the British countryside this week.