After injury and rehabilitation, snowy owls fly free

Maureen Murray released a rehabilitated snowy owl on Plum Island.
Maureen Murray released a rehabilitated snowy owl on Plum Island.(Colin Nickerson for the Boston Globe)

PLUM ISLAND — The snowy owl bearing the clinical name W140218 was released Monday morning at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, along with another snowy that had undergone life-saving treatment by veterinarians at the Tufts Wildlife Clinic.

Overseeing the release was the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Norman Smith, who had rescued both birds from Logan International Airport after they apparently had been knocked from the sky by the downdraft of departing passenger jets. Also participating were Tufts veterinarians Maureen Murray, who surgically restored the flying power of W140218’s fractured wing, and Cristin Kelley, along with veterinary technician Jessica Zorge. All had worked with the majestic sojourners from the Canadian Arctic.


“He’s flying strong; he’s flying beautifully,’’ Murray said as the first of the owls lifted from her hands with a powerful beat of wings. The clinical code simply indicates that the owl was the 218th injured creature admitted to the clinic in 2014.

“Go snowy, go!’’ urged Zorge, as she loosed the second bird.

The birds swooped across the marsh grasses in a generally northern direction. The likelihood is that both owls will hang around the federal wildlife sanctuary for a few days — honing their hunting skills after nearly two months of medical confinement — before striking out on their much-delayed migration to the far north.

“It’s good to see a wild thing restored to the wild,’’ said Smith, an owl expert and director of Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum.

Smith has captured 120 snowy owls from near the runways of Logan, where the birds showed up in record numbers this winter.

Colin Nickerson can be reached at nickerson.colin