Wesley the Owl - Facts or Fiction?

To: Syd Curtis <>
Subject: Wesley the Owl - Facts or Fiction?
From: Chris Sanderson <>
Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2010 15:45:18 +1000
Hi Syd,

On the subject of poop, I can only assume this is a localized term within
the US?  Regarding the depth perception and head movement, I have definitely
heard that Tyto owls get better location of targets via hearing by moving
their head side to side to "triangulate" the source of the sound.  Remember
their face is one big dish focusing sounds to their ears.  Not sure if it
would help vision or depth perception though.  Perhaps Steven Debus can shed
some light on this one?


On Sun, Mar 14, 2010 at 3:16 PM, Syd Curtis <> wrote:

> Is there anyone on birding-aus who has read the book and feels able to
> comment on this for me, please?
> I am reading a book, "Wesley - The Story of a Remarkable Owl" by Stacey
> O'Brien.  My copy "first published in Australia by Bantam in 2009".  (First
> published in the US by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
> 2008.)
> It is claimed that the author trained as a biologist, graduating from
> Occidental College (in California) and continuing her education at Caltech.
> The Owl is an American Barn Owl.  It had nerve damage to one wing and would
> not have survived in the wild.  The author accepted it as a four-day-old
> chick and took on the job of caring for it for the whole of its life.
>  (Some
> 19 years.)  The owlet's eyes were still closed at that stage and when they
> opened he imprinted on Stacey as his 'parent'.  She writes:
>    "When Wesley opened his eyes for the first time, he stared right at me.
>        " 'Hello, Wesley,' I said.
>        " 'Screech,' he softly replied, gazing deeply into my eyes.'
>    "Wesley focused on me right away, twittering and chattering, looking me
> in the eyes and trying to communicate.  I was astonished at the intensity
> and clarity of his focus on me."
> If the book is fact, written by a trained scientist, one would expect
> scientific accuracy. I'm not far into the book, yet already I'm having
> doubts and wondering if some of it is imagination.
>    "Wesley's eyes were fixed in their sockets, so the only way he could get
> depth perception was to move his head from side to side."
> I reckon I can depth perception without moving my eyes or my head.  (Or am
> I
> just imagining this?)
> Just one other (somewhat unsavoury) quote that bothers me a little.  Wesley
> was not confined to a cage, so his droppings had to be cleaned up, and
> there's some excuse for dwelling on this aspect:
>    "Wesley observed the cardinal rule of never pooping in his nest.  ...
> When he first started to scoot around on the carpet, he would back up with
> his rear end high in the air and  push backwards, trying to find the end of
> the rug so he could poop.  ...  I realized that if I lay down a paper towel
> behind him, he would notice the change in texture ... and would poop there
> with a quiet air of dignified relief."
> But the dissertation upon the word "poop" raises my doubts.  It begins:
>    "When describing both the act of defecating and the substance of fecal
> matter itself, biologists prefer to use the scientific term 'poop'."
> And it concludes:
>    "So if it's on the ground, it's poop.  If it's under your microscope,
> it's scat.  If it's running down your neck, it's shit."
> There's no entry for 'poop' in my (1995) Larousse Dictionary of Technology.
> And the only entries in other dictionaries confine the meaning as referring
> to the aft part of a ship.
> So.  Are there any birding-aus biologists out there who regard "poop' as a
> standard scientific term.?
> Does anyone who has read the book, care to comment on whether it's science
> or fiction?
> Cheers
> Syd
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