Our Owl Friend

Kay DiVerde

© Copyright 2021 by Kay DiVerde

Photo of a great horned owl.

We were fortunate to have a baby Great Horned Owl who lived in our suburban yard for several weeks. The little guy seemed to find some comfort having us around, and we admired his majestic beauty.

I first noticed the young Great Horned Owl sitting right under the lights on our front porch one May evening just before the sun went down. I called my husband to come see him. We assumed he must have flown up onto the porch because we had a really high stoop. (As we watched him more, we realized he could not fly very well yet, so he must have climbed up the stoop somehow.)

We did not open the door. We just peeked out the window on the storm door. The little owl was beautiful, but he did look scared. He sat as still as a statue every time a car drove by our house. After a little while, we cautiously closed the front door and went about our business.

A little while later, we were sitting in our family room in the back of the house watching a movie while we waited for our teenage sons to get home. We heard some racket in the backyard. We looked out the bay window and saw the baby Great Horned Owl sitting on our patio table. We were surprised to see he was still in our yard. It was almost like he figured out where we were in the house and moved as close to us as he could get. We watched him resting on the table for a little while and then returned to watching out movie.

Soon we heard howling that almost sounded like a cry. I stood up to look out. When the owl saw me, he would stop crying. When I sat down, the crying would start again. This continued for about an hour. I did just stand for a while I watched our movie to stop the extra noise.

We decided the little guy was lonely. We knew it was a stretch, but my husband carefully went into the backyard and walked out to our shed in the back of the yard. He brought out our big plastic owl that we used to scare critters away from our flower gardens. My husband carefully set the plastic owl at the opposite end of the patio table looking at the Great Horned Owl. While the plastic owl was taller than the Great Horned Owl, the two creatures did not even look like they were of the same species. The plastic owl never looked as fake as it did next to a real owl.

I wish I would have videotaped the Great Horned Owl’s reaction. He looked at the new friend with incredible fear in his eyes. He did try sauntering closer to the plastic owl, but he never got very close.

Soon we saw the little Great Horned Owl hobble off the table and climb up a chair and then on to the top of our hot tub lid. That was the last that we saw him that night. We did leave the back porch light on all night for our little friend. Throughout the night we heard hooting back and forth. We imagined it was the little guy’s parent communicating with him.

The next day, we went out to work in the yard. We found the Great Horned Owl hiding under a Blue Spruce along the side of the house, and he was shivering. He was obviously scared. We did not get very close to the owl.

My husband called the local animal control office. He explained what happened and asked if someone needed to come out and rescue the Great Horned Owl. My husband was concerned that he might become aggressive to the dogs and children in the area who might get too close to the owl, and even more so worried that the owl’s mother might attack. We were also concerned that a raccoon or other critter may attack the baby Great Horned Owl.

Animal Control explained that the owl would eventually grow strong enough to fly away to be with his family. Animal Control also told my husband that the little owl’s parents probably would not come down into our yard unless they felt their little one was in danger. It was not likely that a raccoon would attack a Great Horned Owl either. I guess they just attack the bunnies in our yard!

During the next couple of weeks, we would find the Great Horned Owl in all kinds of places in our yard—under bushes, on the tables and chairs, next to flowers, near the shed doors and back on our front stoop. He did really like sitting on top of the hot tub at night—maybe he wanted to go for a swim!

We admired our little “Owly.” He was just beautiful with stark white features accenting many shades of gray feathers. The tip of his beak appeared incredibly sharp. Looking at his beak reminded us to keep our distance—and we did!

There were a few more evenings when he got lonely and would “cry” while we were watching television. Just like the first night, whenever I stood up and he could see me, he would stop crying. My mother’s instinct had me wanting to cuddle him up and tell him everything would be alright. Of course, I never did pick him up. I do not think an owl would actually be very cuddly!

After a couple of weeks, we did not see “Owly” around the yard any longer. For months, we would hear the owls hooting away at night enjoying being together.

It’s a great memory to think about how shocked I was the first time I saw the little Great Horned Owl sitting on our front porch, and my husband loves to tell the tale that I was such a great mother, I could even comfort a baby Great Horned Owl. Maybe Owly’s babies will return to visit us some day!

I am a former educator and children’s librarian. I have been writing fiction stories since my boys were little. I’ve written stories for the boys and for my classrooms. I have done some freelance writing for a local newspaper and a Catholic magazine. It’s on my bucket list to have a picture book published someday.  My family lives in the Chicago Suburbs, and this story is about my family’s encounter with the local wildlife.

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