Fishing Crew Rescues Drowning Owl 100 Miles Out to Sea: PHOTOS

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Scott Suriano via Getty Images)

Like their fellow raptors, owls are apex predators, among the fiercest animals of the sky. They fly silently and with lethal precision, their downy feathers muting the sound of their wings as they reach speeds exceeding 30 mph in pursuit of their prey, snatching up voles, mice, rabbits, and other small mammals under the cover of night.

The gift of silent flight, however, also comes with a curse. Owls must avoid water – unlike other birds, their feathers are not waterproof. When an owl gets wet, its feathers become waterlogged. This not only prevents them from taking flight but also removes their ability to stay warm.

Now, the bird of prey can swim if necessary. However, its body isn’t built for the activity and, unfortunately, drowning is common for waterlogged owls. A short swim to the shore is possible, but should an owl find itself 100 miles out to sea, death is a near-certainty. Especially when hungry seagulls find them.

In late October, a long-eared owl found himself in this exact situation. Fortunately, the Benarkle II and her fishing crew just happened to be gliding by as the gorgeous bird faced what would otherwise have been his final moments.

Fishermen Bring Drowning Owl to Rehabilitation Center

According to the Benarkle crew, it started when saw a swarm of seagulls attacking something in the water. As they sailed closer, they realized that the avian assailants were attempting to kill a small long-eared owl.

Knowing the raptor would die if left to contend with the seagulls and seawater alone, they volunteered onboard animal enthusiast, Michael, to launch a rescue mission. After bringing the owl safely onboard, they helped him to dry off and rest before providing a much-needed meal.

The caring fishermen chopped up some leftover steak and fed it to the bird, who happily accepted the snack, becoming much more lively with a full stomach.

Though slightly less excited to find himself in a cardboard box for the return trip to shore, the owl quickly made itself at home among the crew. “[It] was starting to become used to the comings and goings of crew in the wheelhouse, even letting him out to stretch his wings,” Benarkle crew wrote.

When the Benarkle finally returned to Peterhead, its home port in Scotland, the crew said their farewells to their new friend. He was transferred to the capable hands of the Huntly Falconry Centre. Owner John Barrie then went to work nursing the owl back to its full strength. The raptor expert, however, says the fishermen did an excellent job in the early stages.

“The owl is just tired after the journey,” Barrie explained to BBC. “They’d fed it up on the boat, and we’ll do the same here. It just needs a bit of beef on it. It’ll be here for a week or two, then released back into the wild.”