Freaks Fun Friday: Owls

I am a freak, I admit it. When I was younger, I actually enjoyed going to school (go ahead, laugh at me) — not because I wanted to meet my friends, but because I loved learning new stuff. It hasn’t changed all that much. I’m still delighted if I manage to smuggle facts into my stories without anyone noticing. at this place, I’ll give you access to my twisted mind. Welcome to a Freak’s Fun Friday.

Yesterday, I had a fun conversation on Twitter about owls, so I thought, why not use them for a blog post? The thing I find most amazing about owls is how silently they can fly. With ever other bird, you can hear the flapping of wings, but not with owls. Their feathers are structured differently (see picture).

Due to the comb like filaments at the edges of the feathers and fluff on the feather’s surface, the wind blowing around the wings is whirled a lot more thus silencing the owl’s flight. Without a sound, they catch their prey, and the mice never learn what befell them. From the perspective of a mouse I’d say, owls are the Silent Death. From a human perspective I’d say, owls are incredibly elegant and efficient.

When I was a kid, my father raised three tawny owls in our attic because their mother had died in an accident. At first, he fed them minced meat but later, we bred white mice in a big, blue barrel filled with straw. The mice multiplied so fast, the owls never managed to keep up with the surplus. We underestimated the amount they can eat and the mice’s fertility. *grin*

Then, we got a breeding pair of eagle owls. The male had been born and raised in captivity, but the female had enjoyed freedom as a young bird. She broke her wing in a car accident, and all vets were sure she would never fly again. With the two eagle owls, the mice population’s rapid growth was no longer a problem.

One night, so called animals’ rights activists cut open the cage where the eagle owls were kept. The next morning, the male sat on a nearby bench, nearly scared to death. He just didn’t know how to cope with the wide open space around him. He seemed very glad when my father returned him to the (repaired) cage. To everybody’s surprise, the female sat in a tree flying (clumsily) from one branch to the next until her wing was strong enough. Then, she left. She was seen once more months later.

Can you tell I’m still mad at the animals’ rights activists? The male owl could have died from fright. Birds are sensitive. If you want to accustom a cage born owl to freedom, it takes a lot of time and patience, and some never learn to cope. And for the female, my father would have eventually figured out that her wing got better. He would have returned her to the wilderness because he’s not one of those people who enjoy keeping animals in captivity. I think it would have been much, much better to talk to my father instead of doing something so stupid.

BTW, the male eagle owl is still alive and thriving (In the wild, owls can reach up to 30 years of age, in captivity they can become anything from 35 to 60 years old). He got a new female (also born and raised in captivity) and they managed to raise a few chicks.

Do you have experiences with birds of prey (or any other bird for that matter)? Do you have a favorite bird? Let me know in the comments.
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