URBANA, Ill. -- Caregivers of an injured snowy owl rescued from a central Illinois field in January say the bird has recovered and will be sent to Alaska this weekend.
The owl, named Qigiq, will be flown to the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka. University of Illinois surgeon Dr. Julia Whittington tells The News-Gazette that the owl will undergo rehabilitation to prepare him to re-enter the wild after an injury.
Qigiq was found in a field near Tolono, where he had been grounded for several days. He was brought to the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic with a broken humerus bone in his left wing. Whittington repaired the broken wing.
"When he came to us, he was very thin and very dehydrated," Whittington said.
Since then, the year-and-half old bird has recovered. Qigiq has started flying in his smaller cage at the university clinic, Whittington said, but in Alaska there will be more room for him.
"They already have a large, eagle-sized cage ready for him," she said.
Snowy owls aren't common in Illinois but there were reports of five owls this winter. Whittington says some of the birds may have migrated south for more territory and food.
If Qigiq is unable to make it into the wild, the Alaska Raptor Center will ask for federal permission to keep him as an educational bird, Whittington said.