By: Stacey O'Brien
Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition
Publication Date: June 2009
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: January 5, 2010
I never really thought much about barn owls. I assumed that, like other wild birds, they flew around, ate mice, and hung around in barns. Surely they weren’t very intelligent. My understanding of these beautiful birds completely changed when I read Wesley the Owl.
In this amazing story, author Stacey O’Brien describes the 19 years that Wesley lived with her. The remarkable owl came into O’Brien’s life at the tender age of four days. O’Brien, a biologist, was working in the owl research lab at CalTech when her supervisor asked if she’d be willing to adopt a fledgling (baby) barn owl with an injured wing. Fortunately, O’Brien had experience with owls and had the full support and assistance of others working at CalTech. Raising an owl is a lot of work!
O’Brien recounts Wesley’s infancy, adolescence and adulthood, all the while inserting sweet stories of how the two, human and owl, bonded over time. At first, Wesley treated O’Brien as his mother and was friendly to others, including the household dog. But as he grew, the handsome owl began to see O’Brien as his mate and challenged all others. O’Brien also includes mention of her early attempts at securing a steady supply of mice, dealing with the unpleasant necessities of prepping said mice for Wesley and reactions of others to her unusual housemate (including short lived boyfriends who couldn’t get over the strange demands Wesley made of O’Brien).
The author inserts just enough background information on barn owls to be interesting without lulling the reader to sleep. Facts on these birds are spread out between the various chapters and include tidbits such as a barn owl’s ability to find a mouse under three feet of snow by listening to its heartbeat. Other facts, such as barn owls dislike of water is disproven by Wesley who developed a deep love of the bathtub. Well-written, engaging, and entertaining, this book is sure to be enjoyed by animal lovers.
Quill says: A fascinating and touching story about a young scientist and her owl.