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A barred owl takes flight to recovery

Raptor center medical coordinator, Carly Smith, retrieves Ned from his enclosure before having his steel implants removed and another X-ray taken. Ned was injured with a broken right shoulder/upper wing. He was taken to the Jim Arthur Raptor Medical center for medical attention. Ned and Nellie are a pair of barred owls that have lived in the Myers Park neighborhood of Charlotte since 2009.
Raptor center medical coordinator, Carly Smith, retrieves Ned from his enclosure before having his steel implants removed and another X-ray taken. Ned was injured with a broken right shoulder/upper wing. He was taken to the Jim Arthur Raptor Medical center for medical attention. Ned and Nellie are a pair of barred owls that have lived in the Myers Park neighborhood of Charlotte since 2009. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Ned flew.

The day the Observer published a story about two barred owls in Myers Park in mid-July, the injured Ned took flight for the first time since his May accident.

He makes a pit stop on the ground before he gets from one perch to the other. But after nearly three months in rehab at the Carolina Raptor Center, it’s progress.

Ned and Nellie have famously nested high in the branches of 100-year-old willow oaks in Myers Park. He and his mate, Nellie, have lived there for six years.

Marsha Gaspari, a certified naturalist and the owls’ human companion, discovered Ned cowering and unable to fly in a neighbor’s backyard mid-May.

She brought the wounded creature to the Carolina Raptor Center at Latta Plantation where Dr. Dave Scott, staff veterinarian, found his right humerus was broken.

Ned has since had numerous radiographs and two surgeries, all while he foster-fathered several owlets in an atrium on-site.

His cost of care at the center, which relies heavily on donations, came to $2,993 at the end of last week.

But the community has continued to rally around its favorite love story. Donations have exceeded $2,870.

While Ned heals, he’s become accustomed to easy food.

Ned has been described as lazy more than once, so he might be moved to a flight cage for some forced exercise. It’s still unknown when he will be able to rejoin Nellie and his real babies back in Myers Park.

They’ve managed to survive on their own all summer.

Gaspari still goes out in the evenings with her owl caller, passing hoots among the trees with Nellie and the babies.

She said sometimes she hears a male respond to Nellie’s call. But Ned and Nellie have history that won’t easily be erased by a new male moving in.

“Ned will not have it,” Gaspari said. “When he comes back, I think he will take his rightful place with Nellie and she will welcome him back with open wings – perhaps a little thump on the head for being gone so long, but still open wings.”

Fowler: 704-654-6344

Who gives a hoot?

If you’d like to donate to Ned’s treatment or follow his progress at the Carolina Raptor Center, go to http://raptormed.carolinaraptorcenter.org/, click to view records for current patients and search for patient ID number 18749.

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