One ‘Whey’ Oily Owl

A great-horned owl took an unfortunate turn during a recent hunting venture. The large owl was in hot pursuit of a rat, and accidentally chased him right into a barrel of whey at a local dairy farm. Whey is a byproduct of the cheese-making process, and is extremely oily and greasy.

Watch a video of the great-horned owl’s exam, and see how he looks after his first bath.
In the photos below, the owl is examined by staff upon arrival to VINS.

As you may know from the oiled gull we treated recently and from the oiled Gulf birds now in the news, oil and feathers don’t mix. Oil destroys the structure of a bird’s feathers, leaving the bird unable to fly. The oil must be removed (with human aid) if the bird is to survive.

Now, washing a gull with webbed feet is one thing. Washing a big, strong owl with razor-sharp talons and a dagger-like beak is a whole other ballgame. We are currently anesthetizing the owl prior to washing him, which helps us really scrub those feathers without having to restrain him. Also, having the bird asleep while we bathe him prevents what would be a very stressful situation for him if awake.

We’ll continue washing him every 3 days until the oil is gone. Then we’ll move the owl out into our flight cage, where he can begin flying again. Please check back here for updates on this owl as he progresses through our rehabilitation process!


  1. Anonymous on July 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    You guys are the best Meghan. Keep up the good work.

  2. Anonymous on July 22, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks for the work that you do. We enjoy checking up on our 'friends'.

  3. Anonymous on November 3, 2011 at 3:48 am

    aww poor owl 🙁 i friggin LOVE owls, very powerful and stunning creatures <3

    do u mind taking a picture him after he's all better? that would be great to see the lil guy get better 🙂

Leave a Comment