Wesley the Owl: Love Story of an Owl and His Girl

Posted on August 2, 2011  Comments (1)

This story begins on Valentine’s Day in 1985 when biologist Stacey O’Brien meets a four-day-old baby barn owl in a fateful encounter that would turn into an astonishing 19-year saga. With nerve damage in one wing, the owlet’s ability to fly was forever compromised and he had no hope of surviving on his own in the wild. A young assistant in the owl laboratory at Caltech, O’Brien promised to care for the helpless owlet and give him a permanent home. O’Brien’s heartfelt memoir of life with this wild bird, Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl recounts their dramatic, and often humorous, life together.

For almost two decades, O’Brien studied Wesley and his strange habits intensively and providing a mice-only diet. With a heart-shaped face and outsized personality that belied his 18-inch stature, the gorgeous white-and-gold Wesley fascinated everyone he met, and touched many lives. Stacey and Wesley’s bond was especially deep; O’Brien discovered that owls are highly sentient beings with individual personalities, subtle emotions, and a playful nature that can also turn fiercely loyal and protective.

Cool fact: “While we hear in two dimensions, owls hear in three.” Owls can detect a mouse heartbeat under three feet of snow.
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As O’Brien got close to Wesley, she made important discoveries about owl behavior, intelligence, and communications skills. Stacey’s decision to study Wesley with a more holistic approach as an ethologist allowed her to observe barn owl behavior with a fresh eye that helped her discover previously unknown behavior. For instance, she was able to study his mating call, which she learned can also be a greeting, and she tracked his moods with changes in his vocalizations.

Stacey O’Brien is trained as a biologist specializing in wild animal behavior. She graduated from Occidental College with a BS in biology and continued her education at Caltech, where she was involved with owl research. Stacey now works as a wildlife rescuer and rehabilitation expert with a variety of local animals, including the endangered brown pelican, sea birds, raccoons, possums, and songbirds.

Stacey: “We are capable of giving love, that is why we are on this planet.”

One Response to “Wesley the Owl: Love Story of an Owl and His Girl”

  1. Bo
    September 23rd, 2015 @ 11:07 am

    I love awls! Sadly, my girlfriend is terrified by them. =)

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