Rare albino barred owl undergoing rehab in Cedar Falls - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Rare albino barred owl undergoing rehab in Cedar Falls

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BLACK HAWK COUNTY (KWWL) - An albino barred owl is going through rehab in Cedar Falls.

It's been in wildlife rehabilitation since animal control officers picked it up Saturday.

Because of its coloring, there's no doubt in wildlife experts' minds that it's a bird that is just striking to see.

Linda Nebbe has been rehabilitating animals for decades, but said she's never seen an albino barred owl.

"Wow, it's really fun to have an animal that is so unique," said Nebbe. "Every now and then, we get somebody that isn't ordinary. That's really awesome and exciting, and an opportunity to learn like crazy."

Animal control officers found the bird along Main Street in Cedar Falls on Saturday. At the time, Nebbe says it was apparent something was wrong with the owl.

"He was uncoordinated, he was not perky, lethargic, not wanting to eat and very, very dry," said Nebbe. "I don't know what he ate or what it did to him, but it did seem to impact his whole body for a short time."

She says the owl is less than a year old and was deemed healthy, though slightly underweight, by a veterinarian on Tuesday.

She says it's something of a scientific find in a bird that's common to the area.

"What we don't know about is the albinism and how it impacts him," said Nebbe. "We've been learning a lot really fast. We've talked with other rehabilitators, and this is not a common occurrence."

The all-volunteer Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project is keeping a close eye on the owl for at least the next few weeks, hoping to learn more in order to educate people.

"Part of our philosophy is, we can help a million animals, but if we don't change the way people look at them, think about them and act with them, we're really not doing a lot to help," said Nebbe.

And that adds up to a difficult decision: What's next for the owl after it's rehabilitated?

Nebbe says her organization is split on whether to return it to the wild -- where it may not live very long -- or keep it in captivity so that others could see it and the scientific community could learn from it.

They say they have several weeks to determine that, and will consult with the U.S. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources.

Nebbe says the owls are very much similar to eagles. They are social animals, meaning they stay with their mate and take care of their young.

For more information, click here: https://www.facebook.com/BlackHawkWildlifeRehabilitationProject
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