CROW Case of the Week: Barred Owl (#18-1811)

The barred owl (Strix varia) is the prototypical owl that gets its name from the coloring of its wings and tail, a barred brown and white shade. These large, stocky owls have round heads, no ear tufts, brown eyes and rounded tails. Also referred to as a hoot owl, the barred owl has been compared to the spotted owl in appearance, though the spotted owl is smaller in size and has spots rather than streaks. 

Barred owls generally live in tree cavities, sleeping mainly in the daytime and hunting by night. That hunting process is mostly a sit-and-wait game from an elevated perch using a sharp panoramic scan with their keen eyesight and hearing. These owls have a recognizable hoot that has been roughly translated as, “Who cooks for you?” 

At CROW, an adult barred owl was admitted to the hospital from Lehigh Acres where it was found on the ground near a fire station. When it arrived at the clinic, the owl was severely down and depressed, and it could barely move. An IV catheter was placed to administer fluid therapy for the bird, and it was placed in an oxygen chamber. “When patients are down and stressed, the additional oxygen can help improve their breathing, as well as ability to transport oxygen throughout their body,” said Dr. Malka Spektor, CROW veterinary intern. “The owl was in oxygen for two days before being moved to a regular enclosure.” 

The intake exam revealed a right wing droop and possible toe injury. The feet were bandaged with ball bandages. “A wing droop is when the patient is holding a wing in an abnormal, drooped position. This can be caused by orthopedic or soft tissue injuries, as well as weakness or systemic illness,” said Dr. Spektor. “In this patient’s case, we suspect it was due to weakness. It resolved when the patient became stronger and was able to hold its body up normally.” 

The owl’s mentation did improve three days later, and a full set of x-rays were taken. The radiographs showed the owl had a fractured toe on each of its feet; however they were noted as older injuries that had already mostly healed. By May 22, just five days after being admitted to the clinic, CROW officials stated the owl had become bright and alert and was moved to an outside enclosure. Its wing droop had resolved, and the owl was cleared for release. 

The patient’s quick turnaround in health may have been due to the flushing out of a toxin in the owl’s system. “Since radiographs and bloodwork, as well as physical examination, did not show any glaring abnormalities other than mentation, we suspect that it could have been a toxin, or some kind of systemic infection that did not show up in the bloodwork. Treating the patient with IV fluids helps flush out any toxins, as well as improving its circulation,” said Dr. Spektor. “The patient was also put on antibiotics to treat any infections, either primary or secondary to being down. If we are able to get ahead of the disease process, and support the patient with fluids and food, it can be enough to improve their condition.”

The patient was released successfully by the finder at the same location it was found on the afternoon of May 24, just one week after being admitted. 


CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.

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