Owl forced to go on diet after getting 'too fat to fly' following Christmas binge

29 January 2020, 14:52 | Updated: 29 January 2020, 14:56

Plump became a little too plump
Plump became a little too plump. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

In what may be the most relatable story ever, this not-so-little owl got put on a diet after packing on the grams over Christmas.

Plump, a female little own, was found lying in a ditch by a concerned member of the public, who took her to Suffolk Owl Sanctuary thinking she was injured.

But when she was examined by a specialist, it turned out Plump had eaten so many mice and voles she had become "extremely obese".

She weighed 245g on admission to the sanctuary - around a third heavier than a large healthy female little owl - but lost 30g to 40g on a two-week diet.

She had managed to put on the weight over Christmas thanks to high numbers of prey in the area and mild winter temperatures.

It was originally thought the little owl was injured, but turned out to just be "extremely obese"
It was originally thought the little owl was injured, but turned out to just be "extremely obese". Picture: Suffolk Owl Sanctuary
At 245g, Plump was a third bigger than she should have been
At 245g, Plump was a third bigger than she should have been. Picture: Suffolk Owl Sanctuary

Head falconer Rufus Samkin said: "This is the first time we've had this. It's quite unusual. After Christmas we can all relate."

As it is so unusual for wild birds to get into this condition naturally, staff conducted an experiment to make sure she was not an escaped pet.

There was no indication of rings or chip identification and local inquiries did not give any answers.

The sanctuary instead observed Plump's familiarity with common foods used in aviaries - such as bright yellow chicks which are not often found naturally in the English countryside - and are a tell-tale sign of a life in captivity.

Plump readily took more wild-type foods such as dark mice, so staff said they were confident it was likely to be an "unusual case of natural obesity".

Ordinarily if an owl is found in a ditch, sanctuary staff would expect an injury to be preventing it from flying.

Occasionally becoming wet causes an owl to become grounded.

Plump's weight was brought down on a portion-controlled diet of wild-type food before being released back into the wild on Sunday.

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