Owl-lo! The latest NYC visitor to come to grief near the Port Authority Bus Station this week was a small owl, rescued from near the bustling transport hub after what appeared to be a collision with a window.  

The bird, a female Northern Saw-Whet Owl, was picked up by New York animal rehabilitation nonprofit the Wild Bird Fund and appeared to have suffered injuries consistent with a window collision.

A Facebook post from the Wild Bird Fund said the “magnificent mini-muffin” of a bird was “alert and clacking” and that they would continue treating her.  According to the NYC Audubon Society, owls collide less frequently with city buildings than do sparrows and warblers. 

Bird-window collisions are common in urban areas where light pollution and reflection of the night sky can easily misdirect birds flying near glossy skyscrapers. Animal advocacy groups and environmentalists have pushed state lawmakers for more bird-friendly modern building design, arguing that glossy, glassy buildings aren’t just bad for birds but also for energy consumption. In December 2019 the New York City Council passed Local Law 15, amending the New York City building code to require that new construction, and significantly altered buildings, use bird-friendly materials.

Northern Saw-Whet Owls are native to New York, measuring between 6.7-8.7 inches tall and weighing between 1.9-5.3 ounces — making them some of the smallest owls in North America, comparable in size to a robin. Their face features a distinctive “Y”-shaped separation between the eyes and true to its name, the bird makes a unique hooting sound reminiscent of a saw being sharpened on a whetstone

If the species looks familiar to Midtown residents, it may be due to 2020’s viral owl, Rocky, rescued from the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree after it inadvertently road tripped with the spruce down from Oneonta to Manhattan. The bird was treated for malnutrition by the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center before being released back to flight near Saugerties. 

Port Authority
Port Authority Bus Terminal where the owl collided with a window. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Though the Port Authority owl appeared to be safe, the Wild Bird Fund appears to have a busy season ahead of them, having already rescued several woodcock birds from window collisions, two possums from a garbage bin and three geese from a Williamsburg parking lot in the last several weeks. 

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