Tonight I was able to hold a great horned owl to be given medication. I was warned that it is like catching and holding a red tailed hawk, but owls are stronger. Thank goodness a little calmer, too. This one hissed at me as I opened it’s enclosure. All fluffed up to be scary, it is extraordinary. Beautiful. And the eyes. Oh my goodness, the eyes. They are round and bulgy like a muppet, with bright, bright yellow iris and black pupils, and eyelashes. And a creamy-opaque membrane that blinks over them.
So when the owl is looking at you with the huge beautiful eyes, it’s hard to remember that it’s terrified and trying to scare you away! But those talons are a reminder that it’s a predator. Strong large claws, larger than the hawks I’ve held. The owl has shorter thighs, where I hold it from, its back against my chest, so it is a little easier to ensure that the claws are firmly held downward so they don’t injure the staff person giving the medication. The front of my shirt was covered in tiny owl down for the rest of the night!
Image: ©Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark