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Tiny owl sneaks into Port Coquitlam city hall for a bit of a hoot

Saw-whet owls are usually nighttime creatures that are seldom seen, but for some reason, this curious female walked into Port Coquitlam city hall this week.

Port Coquitlam city hall received an unusually tiny visitor Tuesday morning (Dec. 7).

A female northern saw-whet owl decided to take a detour from her southern migration to spend a few hours checking out PoCo's city offices.

"No one saw it come in, it just happened to be there," explained bylaw and animal control officer Stephanie Finn in an interview with the Tri-City News.

At around 9:45 a.m., the little creature — weighing no more than three ounces and standing six inches tall — wandered in through the back door of the 108-year-old building, taking workers by surprise.

The normally shy nocturnal owl didn't seem to know what to do next, said Finn, who used her sweater to gently pick it up and deposit it into a box she had under her desk.

"She seemed pretty content sitting in the corner," she added.

However, the saw-whet was none too pleased about being handled, and flexed her talons, fluffed her feathers and tried to get away.

Also helping out with the rescue was Sonal Nagla, a vector control technician.

With extra care, the two gently placed the owl into the box, which was set under Finn's desk until a volunteer from Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation (OWL) in Delta arrived for a check-up.

"It was pretty surreal to have such a tiny little owl right here in city hall," said Finn, whose job usually entails working with domestic dogs and cats.

The owl was taken to the OWL facility, where it was given a wellness check and deemed to be in good health.

Finn said a volunteer drove back to Port Coquitlam later that afternoon and released the female owl into the forest near Gates Park at about 5:30 p.m.

Although it was budget day as staff and councillors were getting ready to discuss city spending for 2022, it's not known whether the saw-whet was appearing as part of a delegation to call for more environmental measures — or to congratulate the city on recent tree-planting initiatives.

Finn believes the owl may have just lost its way and serves as a reminder of how close the community is to wildlife.

"We are lucky to live in an area with so much nature around us," Finn noted.

According to the Cornell Lab, the northern saw-whet owl is a tiny bird with a catlike face, oversized head, and bright yellow eyes. It feeds on mice and other small mammals.

Though seldom seen, it is recognized by its high-pitched "woo-woo-woo" call.