You Can’t Sneak Up on an Owl

It’s almost impossible to sneak up on an owl.

No, really.  Their eyesight is near the top of the charts. Their vision is better than ours during the day, and there’s that whole night vision thing they’ve got going for them.  

Their hearing?  Well, their hearing is enough to make one wonder why we even have charts.  They don’t need to see their prey in order to capture it — the sound of a rustle in the grass or even the beating of an excited heart is more than enough for them to locate their next meal.  

Owls don’t typically have much of a sense of smell, so that works in the favor of any would-be sneaker, but that’s about it. 

All of that said, I recently found myself wishing I could sneak up on an owl.  

An owl who was awaiting my arrival.

A hungry owl — an apex predator — who was waiting for me.

—–

Okay, really, I just needed to feed Max.

I’ve written before about the volunteer work I do with the RISE Raptor Project here in north Alabama.  We’re a small stewardship and conservation education organization that works with birds of prey to communicate our message to the public.

Those birds have to eat, and it was my turn to feed them.  Max’s food, though, was still frozen, so my presence — which should have meant dinner was about to be served — didn’t really mean a meal was imminent.  That’s why I wished I could bring my car up a gravel driveway, turn off the engine, shut the door, unlock and open the building he stays in, thaw his food, and go into his enclosure, all without him knowing I was there.  As if. 

He knew I was there.

Did he let me know he knew?  Yes.  

Did I thaw his dinner as fast as I could?  Yes.  

He gave me grief in the form of an impatient squawk until I finally fed him some 20 minutes later, but he did eventually get his well-thawed meal.  

Did he shower me with thanks afterward?  

Well, no, not really. He was quieter, though. I guess that counts.

Maximus, a Eurasian Eagle Owl

13 thoughts on “You Can’t Sneak Up on an Owl”

  1. Now that I’m retired I’m looking for some meaningful volunteer work. RISE Raptor Project sounds like a good one, and your feeding of Max reminded me of a volunteer stint I had at the Houston Zoo’s petting and children’s area. Even though Max preferred eating a warm meal, I know I would have felt much more comfortable giving him the frozen dinner.

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    1. Nancy, I’m jealous of your petting zoo experience! RISE is great, but our animals don’t do well with petting. {smile} I hope you find a position that’s just right for you!

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  2. Oooohh, what a beautiful picture, Tim!! My son loves to scream “BUHO!” (owl in Spanish), and I can’t wait to show him this picture! I think he would get a kick out of seeing one in real life, too 🙂

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    1. Britt, that’s so cool that your son loves owls! Maybe we can Zoom one day (after your life settles down in, oh, a decade or two) and I can introduce him to Max. (Let’s not wait a decade.) I didn’t know buho is owl in Spanish, but I’m not surprised. The Eurasian eagle owl’s genus and species is Bubo bubo. Close!

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  3. What a gorgeous bird! I love raptors and am so jealous of you getting to feed one. That’s super cool and I appreciate your story of the experience. I’m sure he was happy enough, though I guess you never can tell with owls.

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    1. Erica, they are a bit difficult to read sometimes. After he’s full, I’m simply dismissed. 🙂 That said, I love being able to work with the birds!

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  4. Maximus is a stunning bird, and the name befits his station in life, having servants! Such a worthy project, Tim. There have been some eagle sightings around here, which is very exciting. I am convinced there’s an eagle’s nest on top of a tower nearby and I am hoping to see the birds. Your lead-in to the introduction of Max is perfect – owls are fascinating!

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    1. Fran, he does have servants! I agree that owls are fascinating — I’m fortunate to be able to work with them. It’s neat to hear about your nest on top of the tower. If it’s not an eagle’s, there’s a really good chance it’s an osprey’s. They oftentimes nest on man-made structures. I hope you get to see the birds, regardless!

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  5. I love the customary sense of Tim humor your bring to this scene. Just trying to imagine you sneaking around this bird so it won’t squawk and complain about dinner. And then. “Did he shower me with thanks afterward? Well, no, not really.” Ha! That line got me. Thanks for the smile.

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