Wesley the Owl - Facts or Fiction?

To: Syd Curtis <>
Subject: Wesley the Owl - Facts or Fiction?
From: Chris Charles <>
Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2010 19:45:12 +1100
You will often see the Ninox owls do this when they are looking at you, especially the young ones. If you look up at the sky through the leaves at the ends of the day, your view becomes effectively 2d with the leaves black & the sky white. If you move your head owl-like you will notice that the apparent movement of each 'layer' is related to how far away it is & hence you get a perception of depth. This is useful for locating roosting owls as their outline remains intact while the leaf 'noise' moves relative to it. Works in good light too. I imagine that the owls use it the same way as one of their ploys for positioning their prey.

Chris Charles
0412 911 184

33deg 47'30"S

On 14/03/2010, at 4:16 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.

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?




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