Thursday, March 10, 2016

Minnesota, A Truly Great Gray Owl ~1993-2016

By Lauren Adams, Lead Wildlife Keeper
and Jordan Daley, Science Outreach Coordinator
On Monday, March 7,  we lost a very special member of our VINS family, our female Great Gray Owl, Minnesota. She was a magnificent bird, both a staff and visitor favorite, and she will be greatly missed.


In November of 1993, she was admitted as a patient to the rehabilitation program at The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. She was treated for fractures in her humerus and radius bones of her left wing were, but was unable to regain full function of that wing. After living there as an educational bird,  she was then transferred to VINS, along with her mate, in July of 2000.


The remarkable thing is that she had already grown her full adult plumage, and was at least 2 years old when she was admitted in 1993. That would make her at least 24 years old at the time of her passing. There is not a lot known about the lifespan of these secretive birds. We do know that she far exceeded the life expectancy for wild Great Gray Owls, which is around 13 years.  


This bird was a true animal ambassador, inviting observers into the mysterious world of owls. The injuries to her wing, while a limitation, were also her greatest asset as an education animal. Flightless, she perched very low to the ground, allowing visitors an unusual close-up look at this striking creature. Anyone who was lucky enough to see her will no doubt remember her piercing gaze, stunning feathers, and powerful presence, despite her calm demeanor. I can only imagine how many lives this incredible bird touched in her 24+ years.

Our Great Gray Owl’s passing has left a void in our hearts here at VINS, but rather than mourn our loss, we wish to celebrate a long and beautiful life. This bird’s contribution to VINS, our educational programs, and to the larger community is immeasurable. Each memory and each story passed on about an encounter with this owl is a piece of her that will live on forever. We wish to thank her for her lifelong service.

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