A ‘rare’ two-week-old tawny owl chick has been rescued from West Suffolk Hospital by the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary.
But Sanctuary manager Andy Hulme said the owlet may be a sign of bad times for the county’s birds of prey.
“The chick was found at West Suffolk Hospital after a gentleman called us and asked for advice,” he said. “Immediately I thought ‘it can’t be a chick, it’s February’.
“They normally lay eggs in March then you have another 30 days for incubation.
“I have never known them to be this early – it is very rare.”
The chick is currently being cared for by the Sanctuary, at Stonham Barns.
Andy said owls in the county had been hit hard by the recent unpredictable weather.
He said: “Last year was a very bad year for owls because we had the Arctic conditions in March.
“A lot of birds didn’t breed because they were finding it hard to get food for themselves. This is a real concern.
“This year we’ve had a horrible winter but it has been mild in temperature so the birds must be getting confused at what time of year it is.”
He said the chick was now making good progress.
“We are feeding it every day but we want to keep human contact to a minimum so that the owl stays wild.
“We are looking to release the bird in May time, there should be lots of food available for it once it gets warmer.
“We are hoping this is not one of many birds.
“We could still have a harsh spring that could be dispruptive to the county’s birds of prey.”
An RSPB spokeswoman said: “There is evidence to suggest that birds that nest in urban surroundings lay much earlier than this, but to see a two-week-old chick in February is exceptional.
“The hope is that we do not experience any significantly cold weather later in the winter, which could spell disaster for a young chick.”