Meteorologists might be better prepared than the rest of us when it comes to outdoor adventures, but sometimes, nature throws you a curveball. For Cecily Tynan, who's the weather guru at Philadelphia's 6abc Action News, a recent trail run turned into an unexpected rescue mission when she crossed paths with a tiny screech owl nestling. 

Just a couple of weeks old, the bird was found on a trail near her home, still covered in fuzzy down. "I just couldn't leave the poor thing. I think the wind blew it from its nest," she wrote on Facebook. 

Unlike great horned owls (which the birds are often confused with), screech owls sometimes nest on the ground, opting to lay their eggs on any surrounding debris. Because of this, it's important to contact wildlife officials if you happen to find a baby owl that looks like it's strayed from the nest.

Tyana reached out to staff at The Schuylkill Center, who treat over 3,000 injured, lost or abandoned wild animals every year. "She listened to our phone machine's instructions, and threw her outer garment over the owl’s head to calm it down, which is exactly what to do," the team said in a statement. "Its wings were not broken, but it had fallen, and was severely dehydrated – likely without a mother, it presumably had not eaten in a while, as its food is where it gets its water."

Clinic staff treated the nestling, now nicknamed "Ridley", with IV fluids, and judging by their latest Facebook update, the little rescue is on the road to recovery. 

"Later that same day, another screech owl of about the same age was coincidentally brought to the clinic, and the two are now hanging out, going through their rehab together," says the team. "With luck and care, Ridley should be able to hunt and fly this summer, meaning it can be released in August." 

By that time, the screech owl should be strong enough to feed on small mice, squirrels, birds and even crayfish.

The beak-clacking behaviour you see in Tynan's videos is actually a defence mechanism, used to scare off would-be predators. The owls also take to squinting in a move to hide their large eyes. 

"It is unclear what happened to [Ridley's] parents or siblings, but it is clear that this one would not have survived much longer. [It was] lethargic, dehydrated, and very vulnerable to a wide variety of predators while on the ground. It is a good thing Cecily brought it to us when she did."

While this young owl was clearly in need of help, it's important to remember that a young bird outside of the nest is not always a sign of trouble. This handy guide from Slate will tell you when to keep your well-meaning rescue instincts in check. 


Top header image: Lester Public Library, Flickr