HomeOutdoorsNewsYoung barn owl rescued from cathedral organ pipe

Young barn owl rescued from cathedral organ pipe

by Caitlin Berard
Barn owl similar to individual in organ pipe
(Photo by Javier Fernández Sánchez via Getty Images)

From chicken coops to roller rinks to chimneys to libraries, an owl appearing in an unexpected place isn’t at all a rare wildlife tale. A barn owl somehow finding its way inside a cathedral’s pipe organ, however, is a pretty impressive feat.

The incident occurred back in November, when Melanie Barsony, WIRES Northern Rivers Raptor coordinator, received a strange call from a parishioner of St. Carthage’s Cathedral.

According to the caller, an owl would fly around the building at every mass – but only when the organ played. Though the children in attendance couldn’t get enough of the avian intruder, the barn owl was obviously trapped in the church, unable to find its way out again.

Every night, those at the church attempted to help lead the little owl outside with direction from WIRES Raptor experts. The barn owl, however, wouldn’t budge.

“They turned off all the lights in the evening and one of the sisters would leave some food near one of the side doors which they left open,” Barsony told ABC. “But because he was a juvenile, he didn’t have much experience and his instinct was to stay up high.”

Birds typically wander indoors in search of food. Once inside, however, they find themselves trapped, unable to fly upwards to escape as they usually would. Disoriented by the lights and ceiling, it’s incredibly difficult for them to find their way out on their own.

Barn owl’s return to the wild marks success story for raptor rescuers

Eventually, the barn owl dove down from the rafters, perhaps out of stray geckos to eat. Rather than venturing back outside, however, it swooped down one of the grand organ pipes.

“The only thing we could think is the organ was almost like a tree hollow because it was open at the top,” Barsony explained. “And as soon as he flew in, he slid right down.”

“A church member noticed when they played the note on the organ, they heard a bit of kerfuffle and saw his little face peeking through the pipe’s mouth, but it wasn’t big enough for him to get out.”

The largest instrument in existence, the tallest organ pipes stretch a staggering 64 feet skyward. Even if this one was a more standard 32 feet tall, there was no easy way to pull the barn owl out the way it went in.

Thankfully, however, the opening in the organ pipe’s mouth was just large enough for a WIRES volunteer to reach through. To the rescuer’s surprise, the bird of prey didn’t shy away from him or attempt to escape, it simply let him pull it through the mouth of the pipe.

Freed from the pipe and soon the cathedral altogether, rescuers nursed the barn owl back to full health with plenty of food and water. Ten days later, he was released back into the wild near the church.

“This is an incredible story of compassion, determination, and cooperation between so many people to help this precious little Barn Owl,” WIRES said.