PHIPPSBURG — Phippsburg Police Chief John Skroski, a self-proclaimed “bird nerd,” received the call of a lifetime Thursday when a good Samaritan reported an injured snowy owl on Route 209.

“I’ve done many bird rescues but as someone who loves birds and is a police officer, this couldn’t have been a better call,” said Skroski. “I made my first bird feeder in Boy Scouts in third grade and from then I was hooked.”

While Skroski has rescued a great blue heron, wild turkey, red-tailed hawk and multiple seagulls, he said this was his first owl rescue. He named the owl Percy, a nod to the surname that has deep roots in Phippsburg.

After gently picking up the bird and placing it in a box, he arranged to have it taken to Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation center in Freedom.

Diane Winn, executive director of Avian Haven, said the bird was emaciated and injured when it arrived, but she can’t x-ray the owl to determine what might be wrong until it’s stable.

Skroski named the owl Percy, a nod to the surname with deep roots in Phippsburg. Photo courtesy of Caroline Skroski

“There are some minor wounds and bruises on a wing and both eyes have some damage,” said Winn. “Right now we’re concentrating on keeping the bird alive.”


Winn said Avian Haven cared for 3,600 birds last year, and usually sees a few snowy owls each winter. The center admitted two snowy owls in November, but both later died.

Although they breed in the Arctic, snowy owls spend their winters in New England and southeastern Canada near the upper Great Lakes states, according to David Brinker, co-director of Project Snowstorm, a snowy owl research organization.

Although they’re considered a top predator, around 60% of snowy owls don’t live more than a year because, “these birds can easily get in trouble,” said Brinker. The most common cause of death for young snowy owls is being struck by a car or airplane because “young birds just don’t know what’s not safe for them,” he said.

“How they get injured is a marker of their inexperience with humans,” he said. “Older birds are generally wiser and meet with fewer humans.”

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