A snowy owl from Washington, D.C. is at the University of Minnesota to undergo a feather transplant.
Because the U of M's Raptor Center is internationally known for replacing bird feathers, an East Coast rehabilitation center reached out to center officials for help with one of its patients. The snowy owl was reportedly hit by a bus in in the nation's capital in late January. The owl's feathers also showed signs of being burned, so they needed to be replaced, the Raptor Center said.
“We’re uncertain as to what caused the singed-like appearance to the owl’s feathers, but it does resemble patients we have treated who burned their flight feathers after flying over an intense heat source, such as a methane burner,” Lori Arent of The Raptor Center said.
Having burned feathers like that makes them useless for flying, WCCO reports. So, the owl had a procedure called imping to replace its damaged wing feathers. The replacement feathers will allow the owl to fly and survive in the wild until it molts and grows new flight feathers, Arent says.
The Raptor Center saves flight feathers from bird patients that don't survive. Because feather shafts are hollow, these replacement feathers can be fitted, inserted and glued using a piece of bamboo as a connector between the bird and the new replacement feathers.
The owl's prognosis is good – next week it'll test out its new feathers and then undergo an exercise program to make sure it is strong enough to be released back into the wild, according to Raptor Center.