A rare bird made its way to western North Carolina a week ago, and now a naturalist couple in River Mills is trying to nurse her back to health.
Her nickname is Tundra, and she is a snowy owl. That type of owl generally resides in northern Alaska or northern Canada, according to Carlton Burke. He runs Carolina Mountain Naturalists in River Mills and took Tundra in to help her after she was found malnourished and dehydrated.
"She's underweight, emaciated, dehydrated and that can be fatal to the bird," said Burke. "So, we're trying to fatten her up get her to the point where she can digest her food normally."
The Burkes feed her a healthy diet of frozen mice and they said she is gradually gaining to her normal weight.
They said calls from bird watchers around the nation keep coming in, with enthusiasts asking to see the bird. The Burkes said snowy owls are never seen as far south as North Carolina, but the recent cold and snowy weather may have influenced Tundra and others like her to the area.
"I've only seen one before in my life," said Vicky Burke. "This is a real treat."
The Burkes believe Tundra and other snowy owls came to North Carolina in search of food, which may have grown scarce farther north because of the extra-cold temperatures.
It is Tundra's piercing gaze that has bird enthusiasts like the Burkes so excited about Tundra's appearance in their area.
"I almost feel like the owl symbolizes a sense of hope, a sense of an extra understanding into the world around us," said Vicky. "Something about the eyes really touches the hearts of people."
Once Tundra is ready, the Burkes said they will release her back into the wild further north so she can make it back home.
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