“Ever since I scheduled this nine weeks ago, Brendan has been counting the days until his “Owl Experience”.
A little background first, there is this regulation – “The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid Federal permit.” This covers all owls native to the US. It is wonderful that they are protected, otherwise they are killed for their beautiful feathers. But it means that an owl-obsessed kid like Brendan has a hard time visiting owls outside of the zoo and places with permits like educational facilities. And the pet owls getting cuddled and rubbed on youtube are all outside this country and not for him. He finds it entirely unfair. He just wants to pet an owl.
He is old enough to understand that owls are wild, dangerous, and don’t particularly like snuggling. We will never have a pet owl even if the law were changed. But he still sees it in videos, and is green with envy.
I did some internet searching and I found a falconry place in Chino Valley (about 2hrs away). They could not let Brendan pet or cuddle any owls, but they were willing to let him try to hold a non-native bird. A foreign owl is exempt from the regulations!
A very awesome couple that runs Arizona’s Raptor Experience welcomed us into their home to visit their birds. We arrived at 10am for our 2hr Owl Experience educational program.
Their backyard had a herd of javelina invading the bird food they put out for quail.
They do a lesson first, and they were amazed at how much Brendan already knew about owls! He could have taught the class. They spent some time talking about owl anatomy. He got to hold an owl skull.
They showed him some real preserved owl wings that he was able to touch.
He was able to handle owl feet too and feel their talons.
Different species of owl feet. Brendan was not weirded out at all by the taxidermy. He was fascinated.
They brought out the first live owl. A Northern Saw-Whet Owl. This was a no-touch owl, but we were able to take lots of pictures. Her name is Stihl like the saw.
The next owl they brought out was a Barn Owl named Marlee. Marlee had been raised from a chick by this couple but she did not have much experience with children. Brendan made her nervous.
This is a threat display. Marley was saying “get back” and snapping her beak. We backed up, but took a few pictures.
The “Grand Finale” was coming. They gave Brendan his own owl glove. What do you know, it was orange!
They were unsure at first whether Brendan would be able to handle Goliath, the Eurasian Eagle Owl. But Brendan has been prepping for this, practicing by lifting gallons of milk. Goliath weighed just over five pounds. Brendan says his arm was shaking, but he managed to hold him up all by himself! Goliath was such a good gentle bird!
The smile says it all!
Eurasian Eagle Owls are not native to the US but we have seen many of them here in shows and demonstrations. Technically, you could legally keep one as a pet, but they are one of the largest owl species!
I got to hold Goliath too!
A close up of fuzzy and sharp owl feet!
Paul and Anne were fantastic. They adored Brendan so much. They were so impressed with his knowledge and love for owls. They gave him a snowy owl puppet and a couple of Goliath’s shed feathers to take home. (not protected like the other owl’s feathers).
Brendan says it was a dream come true for sure, but in his dream, he could pet a LIVE owl. It is on his bucket list to go to Tokyo where they have an owl cafe with petting owls. One day!