When a U.K. landowner found a "soggy" owl in a ditch, he took her to a bird rescue, thinking she was injured.
Rehabbers at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary examined the wet bird, which was a species called a little owl or Athene noctua. They thought she likely wasn't flying because she was hurt or too wet, but they dried her off and examined her and realized that wasn't the case.
It turns out her hefty appetite was the problem.
"Usually in these instances we assume injury of sorts that is preventing the owl from flying — occasionally becoming wet causes them to become grounded too — so you can imagine our surprise that when we examined her, we found her to simply be extremely obese!" the sanctuary posted on Facebook.
They found she weighed a "rather chunky" 245 grams (8.6 ounces) which is about a third more than a large healthy female little owl should weigh.
"She was unable to fly effectively due to the fatty deposits around her body," the sanctuary said.
Investigating her obesity
The rescuers weren't sure what had led to the owl's obesity. They thought maybe she had escaped from an aviary, but there was no sign that she had any sort of ring or chip identification. They asked around locally and no one recognized her. She also wasn't familiar with common foods that are fed to birds in aviaries.
They investigated and discovered that the area where she was rescued had an abundance of field mice and voles due to an exceptionally mild December. With that overflowing smorgasbord, the little owl just overindulged.
The rehabbers took the little owl — they nicknamed her Plump — and put her on a strict diet. She lost about 20-30 grams (0.7 to 1 ounce), getter her closer to her more natural weight.
During the weight loss process, she gained a few fans on the sanctuary's Facebook page.
"That post Christmas weight gain can be a problem. Glad she is a better flying weight now," said one commenter named Kelly.
"She is not obese....just big boned," said Ali.
"So, that's why I can't fly!" Eleni posted.
Healthier and happier
After a few weeks of dieting, Plump was ready to test her wings. The sanctuary released her into the British countryside "at a much healthier, and happier weight."
The sanctuary rehabbers hope they don't see her again — at least not in her pre-diet form. Plump was certainly one of a kind.
"This is quite unusual for us to see," head falconer Rufus Samkin tells MNN. "It is, in fact, the fattest wild owl we have ever had brought to us!"