Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien

After finishing writing my own little book, Animals of the Homestead, I started to wonder what other “me and my bird” stories are out there. As expected, majority of animal stories were about dogs, and some about horses.

I might never have read this book, had I not had the few months experience with chickens that led me to write my own little story. Because I had no idea how fascinating birds could be. How intelligent and even social they are. And chickens possibly have one of the worst stereotypes as being dumb.

I am glad that I got to read this book. Unlike myself, who was a complete newbie with animals, Stacey was a biologist, and she spent 19 years with Wesley, the barn owl. I found it hard to put down this book and finished it over two days. There were fascinating tidbits about owls.

For example, the adult male owl usually eats 3 mice. When nesting, the male does all hunting while the larger female, eats 4, defends their nest of 5 babies, who need 6 mice each. Crazy to hunt 37 mice a day.

Her story was funny, but even more than that, admirable.

She copes with him not sleeping, owls being nocturnal. And not being able to use babysitters in the early months, since he has imprinted on her as “mom” and depends solely on her for survival. Takes much time in getting Wesley to understand what she is doing so that she doesn’t have to forcefully hold him to trim his beak and talons.

She calls this “the Way of the Owl”. And she does all this because “the owl never forgets.”

I don’t think this was the main intention of this book. I think she wrote this mostly to show us how amazing owls, and other wild animals are. But I couldn’t help but see the analogy to parenting.

Stacey goes to great lengths to not lose Wesley’s trust and understand his instincts. Perhaps greater lengths than many parents do with their own children. They often think this is okay because the babies won’t remember. And we all survived similar or worse parenting. But more and more research is showing that our body and our psyche does remember.

“The owl never forgets.” Actually, neither do children.

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