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  • Sharron Montgomery Pena

Meet the birds- Percy the Barn Owl

There are few birds out there that capture our imagination like owls. They are known by some cultures as the messenger of death and superstition. In other belief systems they are thought to be wise and powerful. The owl is often associated with magic and sorcery. These incredible birds are found on every continent except Antarctica. We are fortunate to have three owls in the Flight of the Raptor family, but today we would like to introduce to you, our smallest, a barn owl named Percy.

Owls are some of the most accomplished hunters on the planet, using the acoustical quality of their facial discs to detect the slightest sound to alert them of the presence of their favored prey, rodents.

After visually confirming their target, they glide silently towards their prey, reaching out to grasp or pounce on their victim, and swiftly kill with their powerful sharp talons.

Percy, now 6 years old, was hatched at a facility in St Louis, Missouri from a captive pair of European barn owls and joined our family at 2 weeks old. Ray had always wanted one of these miniature barn owls as an edition to our program. Owls are notoriously uncomfortable around large quantities of people if they are not captive bred, and because of the nature of our busy programs, we felt it was important for our owls to spend their "childhoods" becoming accustomed the busy work environments of renaissance festivals and powwows.

European barn owls are about a third smaller than the American barn owl, but essentially share the same characteristics with all barn owls. Barn owls are in their own distinct family called Tytonidae which is distinctly separate from the family Strigidae, which includes great horned owls and eagle owls like Scooby and Boo as well as screech owls and the more widely known snowy owls.

I found it fascinating to document Percy's development from 2 weeks old to fledgling(about 60 days). The speed of his feather growth was astounding, and day by day he changed from an alien, into something that resembled a muppet, and finally into the amazing creature you have probably met at one of our programs.

This photo series started on 5-2-14 and ends sometime in July of 2014. So in the wild he would be flying and hunting as a 4 month old fledgling!

He spent most of his day eating enormous amounts of food, sleeping, and occasionally wandering around our rv, inciting panic when we couldn't find him.

He is still quite playful. He is still quite vocal. And in the end, some parts of his wild nature endured and as anyone who has ever worked with a barn owl knows, can be, ahem, cough, cough, quite challenging and rebellious to put it mildly.

Despite our best efforts to acclimate him to every possible situation, Percy is terrified by women in long swoopy skirts, (ironically found at every renaissance festival) and it took him very long time to enjoy the company of children.

Thanks to the dedication of our wonderful squire and volunteer Sean Last (pictured with his sister Norelle photo by Denise Bennorth), Percy finally learned how to accept children as a part of his world. Like his human counterparts, we exposed Percy to different environments, but it was always Percy's own will that won over what we wanted.

Every bird has a different personality, and we must respect the individual every bit as much as we respect the species. We hoped you enjoyed a look inside Percy's world and we hope you will stay tuned for more exciting stories. You can subscribe to our blog at the top of the page. We promise no spam!

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