This probably applies to exactly no one but me, but it really did happen, so I feel I should prepare the rest of the world, just in case. Because I learned alot today.
If you find a baby owl that is not obviously injured but only young and wobbling around on the ground looking cute as an Ewok, lost, distressed, adorable, sure to be eaten by the next predator, fuzzy, you-must-have-it-kewpie-like, reminiscent of Diagon Ally shops, and irresistably soft (you are probably already picking out a name), please leave it alone. Don’t interrupt nature. It’s doing just what it is supposed to.
- If you have already taken the owl (asking for a friend), put it right back where you found it, EXACTLY, before nightfall, and the parents will retun to feed it and preen it then.
- No, the parents cannot smell you on the baby. Just put it back. Contrary to much misinformation, in general birds don’t smell. If you had chickens you would already know this. It’s the placement that matters, nothing else. They communicate by sight and sound.
- Everyone knows what you were thinking, but Harry Potter is a myth. In the real world, owls make miserable pets. There is ample anecdotal evidence on the internet to support this claim. The stories are shocking. Owls are seductive and would love to live with you, and even to map onto you as their Mama-person, like a cartoon Furbie hatching out of a dinosaur egg with a crazed smile and spiraling eyes, but then just as soon as you start feeding them, they are apparently to a one presumptuous of your personal space, viciously mean to everyone else, defiant if left alone, destructive in unexpected ways (feather pillows, upholstery, cabinetry, refrigerators, and most gruesomely, other pets [!]… the list is long), blood-drawing even when just trying to be friendly, poopy (not the poop so much as the rancid, staining expulsions of the cloaca – again, if you had chickens you would already know this), vomit balls of rat and bat bones, rigidly habitual (no vacation for you, ever), and they can live up to 30 years, so your punishment for any infraction will not be short. Basically it’s like a parrot that cannot be controlled and has the mindset and the claws of a pterodactyl and which stays up all night calling for other owls – “night-owl” is apparently not just a saying. Sensibly, it is illegal to keep an owl as a pet in most every country, including yours and mine. Also it turns out that they are not especially erudite, another widespread misconception.
- Baby owls spend quite a while frittering around on the ground looking adorable and helpless during their first few days out of the nest. They are probably looking for civilian naifs like you to take them home – they are suspiciously easy to find and catch, and that should be your first clue – but while they are vulnerable to certain predators, and particularly cats and dogs, they are supposed to do this, and they can sometimes even climb back to the nest on most rough-bark trees, may burrow under things, and are well camo’d. They learn to walk, and then to fly during this period, and to communicate with sounds. They also learn to use their claws as a good raptor should. I can personally testify that even when teensy and cute, their claws are sharp as needles affixed to Ginsu knives on both sides. I have never… I mean sharp! This is not a parakeet! And they like to cling. You cannot pry these kids loose – this goes for fingers, shirts, bucket rims, water bottles, kichen counters, hair, keyboards, and other pets, like screaming dogs. These were all the time I had to experiment with, but let’s just say they cling with a piercing grip to just about anything, but have no balance yet, so it’s a bit like being attacked by a swinging staple gun that spins and flaps after you’ve been nailed. Strangely at this age, they cannot bite. I guess they don’t have to.
- If you have already fed your contraband owl something in the kitchen by the time you finally read all this information (again, asking for a friend… say, last night’s grilled rabbit with a side of risotto and a fat earthworm), that’s probably fine, as they can eat just about anything. They don’t even care. Again – they are happy to move in. It’s you who should be afraid.
This particular baby owl was totally and mysteriously silent the entire time, even when others around her or affixed to her were screaming in pain, and even when someone might have pushed the wrong button trying to weild the cellphone one-handed searching the internet for “how to get a baby owl to let go?” and caused the Sonos to blare suddenly at top volume (Goody-Goody, by Marie Adams & The Three Tons of Joy – owls do not care, not even a blink during the last rousing chorus).
But when I put her back where she belonged, before she (he?) even hopped off my finger into the tall grass again, she started to make a clicking sound like a dog-training clicker. I can only assume this was to call the parents to let them know that she was right where they left her and they would need to come do the regulars this evening again, because the human, though he bit the hook hard, had slipped the line and run the other way.