A Little TLC

We all need a little TLC now and again. For one saw-whet owl, TLC came in the form of gentle physical therapy from the trained staff at VINS. In early November, a saw-whet owl was found by a member of the public under a mailbox on the road. It is likely the bird was hit by a car, based on where she was found. The bird was initially treated by a local vet who applied a wrap to her right wing after finding two broken bones there.

Watch a video of this owl receiving physical therapy! In the photo above, intern Audrey Gossett performs physical therapy while the owl is under anesthesia.

The owl came into our care and after several weeks with the wing wrap on, we found the fracture to have healed. We removed her wing wrap, but after weeks of being held in one position the owl’s wing was quite stiff.
We began physical therapy (PT) on the tiny raptor to help her loosen up her wing muscles and tendons, and allow the bones to gently shift back naturally into various positions.

If you’ve ever broken your leg or arm, chances are you endured weeks or months of PT to get your limb back in working condition. PT on a bird is no different. We performed weekly therapy sessions on the owl’s wing, first putting the bird under anesthesia. The anesthesia helped the owl remain still and calm while we performed the therapy. PT may be painful to a bird as well, so putting the bird under may help dissolve some of the pain.

The owl’s PT sessions are now over, and she is able to flex her wing as needed. Soon, we will move the saw-whet to an outdoor enclosure where we can evaluate her flight ability.

Remember the pileated woodpecker in our care? Watch a video of this feisty bird being weighed! And check out many more videos of our wild bird patients on the YouTube VINSWildlife Channel!


  1. Anonymous on January 20, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    … and hopefully sometime in the near future we will be watching the release video for this little owl. Keep up the good work! Thank you.

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