Aren't those wide, bright orange eyes phenomenal?
They belong to a northern white-faced Scops owl, that we've recently had living with us. A friend told us that one of the markets in town had it in a cage for sale and that it was looking pretty traumatized.
Brendan asked, told us he had the money - and so Tim took him to get it.
This is the second time our oldest has tried to raise/rehabilitate one. He also spent several months caring for a Lanner falcon just prior to our last furlough.
The first time, he went looking for one and he cared for the owl for nearly a year before it ate tainted meat (we think) and died. The wings and tail feathers of that particular owl - Silver was her name (although she didn't like Tim and growled every time she saw him, so he called her Mrs. Grumpy) - had been so damaged when it was captured that Brendan knew after a very short time it would never be able to fly again. So he'd kill lizards with his slingshot to feed the bird and kept her in a cage in his room or on our terrace. He thoroughly enjoyed caring Silver - she was a magnificent creature. I think that his experience with Silver and a few other birds of prey he's helped rehabilitate is a part of his desire to study environmental science as he looks at heading to university next year.
We enjoyed that owl while we had her and we all learned so much... One of Brendan's friends was also rehabilitating a barn owl at the same time. Whenever the two were in the same proximity, Silver would puff, flare his wings a bit and make herself look nearly twice the size she really was. Apparently, this is an instinctive trait for these owls when feeling threatened by a slightly larger animal.
She responded totally differently with a much larger, or more aggressive (i.e. our cats) animal. Then she'd pull inward, stand up as tall and thin as she could, completely narrow her eyes and, seriously? She would actually look like a stick or a twig. Some scientists consider this a type of camouflage, or instinctive protective behavior.
This is Brendan's senior year... most likely his last year in Africa for a significant time, at least... He was super excited to stumble on this amazing bird and to have the gift of another opportunity to work with one of these magnificent creatures. It doubly thrilled him to find that when this one spread wide its wings, they looked strong and the plumage appeared full and healthy. It could fly. So Bren figured he'd rescue, care for and work with it a bit (continuing to gain bird handling skills and pursuing his long-standing interest in falconry here, where it is much less regulated and more affordable) until the damaged tail feathers grew back. Then he hoped to release the bird, returning it to the wild.
Sadly, Bren noticed the past few days that the owl was very lethargic and last night, it refused to eat.
This morning, it died.
We're all sad, Bren especially.
When you open your heart wide and risk: loving for, caring for and dreaming for eventual restoration and freedom... it hurts when less than that is the result.
Whether here... or elsewhere, I hope he has the opportunity to explore this passion again.