Sunday, February 22, 2009

That noise in the chimney isn't Santa Claus...

...or even the Grinch. It took a concerted team effort as well as a bit of trial and error, but Elaine Bachel from Raptor Recovery Nebraska, Steve & Kim from Country Sweep Chimney Service, and I finally extracted this barred owl (Strix varia) from a residential chimney down in Beatrice. [Photo by Elaine.]

A falling limb knocked the cap off the chimney several days ago, and the owl evidently fell in while exploring the new cavity that had suddenly appeared in her territory. (The damaged tree itself is a potential nesting location.) Elaine and the homeowners had tried last night to pull the bird up with a rope, but couldn't get her past a narrowing of the flue six or seven feet from the top. Today we tried to push her up using the sweeps' brush, but again failed to get her past the chokepoint. Fortunately, she took a good hold on the brush and Steve was finally able to pull her down far enough so we could grab her legs and guide her out past the damper.

Despite being worked up and down the narrow confines of the chimney like a bottle brush, she emerged without feather damage (most cavity-nesting birds have very flexible feathers) or other injury. And despite having been inside for several days, she was in remarkably good condition—a bit thirsty, but nowhere near starving. She did some bill-popping, but otherwise handled the ordeal with equanimity.

Nothing in the world could be as soft as the body plumage of a barred owl...

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