01 of 08
Six Reasons Why You Don't Want An Owl As A Companion
The film series didn’t do the bird world any favors when Hedwig appeared as Harry Potter’s pet. People went crazy for her. Similar to what happened with the release of the film, 101 Dalmatians when the Dalmatian’s popularity rose overnight and an interest in them as a pet rose, people suddenly took an interest in owls like Hedwig. But owls like Hedwig are not dogs. These raptors aren’t domesticated like dogs and keeping owls in a typical home setting is next to impossible.
Don’t get me wrong.... Owls are some of the coolest creatures on the planet. They fly almost silently due to the fringed and serrated feathers on the leading edge that muffle the sound of air passing over their wings. They are somewhat like a stealth aircraft. They can attack prey making very little noise.
But you need to keep in mind that they kill for a living. It’s how they are made and nothing is going to change that instinct. They rely heavily on this instinct in regards to hunting and finding prey. In other words, they hunt prey and then deal with what comes with what they do naturally. They don't like to put up with cuddling because you are forcing the animal to do something that goes against their nature. And with that sharp beak and razor-sharp talons, if you aren't familiar with handling raptors, you might end up looking like the victim in a slasher movie if you try it. Remember that they hunt small prey and that is what they are built to do. They are one of the most efficient hunters in the world.
Here are some reasons why they don’t make good pets for the average person:Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
Do You Like To Prepare Small Animal Carcasses Like Mice and Rats?
If you have an owl, you’ll be doing that on a daily basis. Owls are strictly meat eaters and this is a rather distasteful task. It’s difficult for the average person to thaw these carcasses out and serve them up. I’ve seen it done countless times when I was in training at a week long seminar, at Best Friends Animal Society’s Wild Friends area and while working as a guest keeper for a writing project at the Cincinnati Zoo. It’s not pleasant. And let’s not forget about storing these carcasses in... the freezer as well as having to clean up the leftovers. You’d be picking up owl pellets on a regular basis. It’s a rather unsavory job. Trust me, I’ve had to do it. They hunt these small rodents in the wild using their hearing and sight. Because many owls have ear holes that are at different heights on their heads, their brains can create a three-dimensional auditory map of what is around them. This is like running through the woods in pitch blackness and trying to locate jumping potato chips using your hearing.Continue to 3 of 8 below.
03 of 08
Do You Have A Large Aviary Out In Your Back Yard?
Owls need space. A LOT of space. A small cage in the corner of the living room just isn’t going to cut it. And by the way, owls have sharp talons and you’re going to have to maintain that outdoor aviary because if it’s made of wood they’ll have it in toothpicks after a while. They’re fairly destructive and those talons are built for ripping the life out of prey. Your furniture doesn't stand a chance.
They need to bathe regularly due to dust and dirt that builds up on their feathers. If they... don't bathe, their feathers whistle when they fly betraying their presence in the wild so they instinctively want to take baths ensuring they are free of anything they would make their presence known. They need to be provided with a large bath pan that is cleaned and refilled regularly. Owls bathe during the day which is an issue because it is daytime when they become prey to the faster and swifter raptors. Goshawks are one of the biggest predators of owls.
By the very virtue of the fact that they are probably better off outdoors in an aviary defeats the purpose of having them as a home companion. If you must keep them outside all of the time, they aren’t with you very much. Would you really want to set them up in the back yard and only visit them once or twice a day? They don't really "bond" to you in the traditional sense, but nevertheless they become used to you and your presence. So these animals cannot be left by themselves for prolonged periods of time and need daily care despite the fact that they will not be living inside your home.
The UK doesn't have the same laws we do and after people began obtaining owls as pets, they quickly began giving them up. Families were simply not up to the demands of keeping an owl in captivity. I've handled owls and they are really interesting birds, but not to have as a pet in the traditional sense.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
04 of 08
Do You Have A Permit To Keep An Owl?
You’re going to need one. These guys are wildlife and you will need to be trained before you get a license to keep a native species in captivity. Only after being trained and licensed will you be abiding by the law when keeping one. Even upon being licensed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), you still can't keep domestic owl species as a pet. If they are healthy and fit, they must be released back to the wild.
If they have an injury that prevents their release, you must also have an... education permit which is going to keep you extremely busy. This educational permit compels you to do educational programs for the public. You need to present a certain number of programs every year that you hold the permit, although the education requirements may differ from state to state. There are only certain injuries that a raptor can have as an educational bird. In other words, the restrictions are crippling.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Owls Are Active When It Is Dark
Owls are nocturnal which means they are active and hunt when it is dark out. They make noise at night especially during mating season. My African Grey parrot, Parker is fairly loud when he is in breeding condition. Even so, he goes to sleep when it gets dark and stays quiet until he awakens in the morning. But an owl? I can’t imagine the pandemonium that would go on in the middle of the night with an owl in the living room or even in a back yard. I hope your neighbors don’t mind all that racket... going on at three in the morning, especially during breeding season.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
06 of 08
Going Somewhere For A Few Days?
Perhaps you shouldn’t go anywhere. How many people do you know that would be willing to serve up the aforementioned mice and rats for your owl? I have some very good friends who look after my parrots while I’m gone. And my friends are well trained to take excellent care of my African Greys, But feeding a bowl of vegetables to a parrot is a little different than dishing up a defrosted mouse. And by the way, are these people who will be looking after your owl trained to do this? Probably not. I... can’t even imagine asking my two friends who look after my Greys to do this for an owl.Continue to 7 of 8 below.
07 of 08
Do You Have A Good Sense Of Smell?
Well, you’re in for a treat. Owls poop. They poop a lot. They poop everywhere. And unlike parrots who are primarily vegetable eaters, this poop smells. Oh, and did I mention that they regurgitate pellets? Pellets are the undigested bits of bones, feathers and skulls of that carcass you just fed them. So you can just go ahead and pick those up along with the poop, the feathers, and all of the other detritus left on the floor of your huge aviary. I hope you love cleaning too. Because these guys... can be mess makers. Let’s face it, birds in general are slobs.Continue to 8 of 8 below.
08 of 08
The Experts Weigh In...
Tamara Barker-Hanley works with raptors. When I asked her what she thought of owls as pets, she had this to say: “Owls make lousy pets because they are wild animals. They are a federally protected species under the migratory bird act, and they will inflict major injury if not handled correctly. Owls, unlike other raptors, are not even used for falconry as a general rule. Even after being licensed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, (USFWS) you still can't have a (native) owl as a pet. If... they are healthy, they must be released back to the wild and if they have an injury that prevents release, you must also have an education permit, and do educational programs for the public. There are only certain injuries that a raptor can have as an educational bird. USFWS has a list of injuries that are 'OK.' (an injury warranting keeping the owl in captivity) If it is not an approved injury, you are required to euthanize the animal."
Steve Malowski, Team Leader for the bird department at the Cincinnati Zoo has this to say about owls as pets. "Unless you are an educator associated with a similar institution I doubt if a private person could even get a permit. I would leave it to the experts and ignore all the cutesy videos of owls supposedly as pets. Europe and elsewhere may be different but USFWS (United States Fish and Wildlife Service) is very strict."
And finally, a few words from Joe Krathwohl, "The Bird Man of Las Vegas:"
"Owls have never been, nor ever will be considered pets except in the most disrespectful of captors. Lately we see all sorts of demeaning videos on the Internet, of people from around the world who have found a way to obtain owls and then treat them as if they are toys. There is nothing less cute than seeing an owl suffering from learned helplessness at the hands of a person who demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of behavioral science and lacks respect for the natural behaviors of owls.
Owls will never be considered pets because their intelligence level makes it hard for anyone other than a falconer or trainer to truly create a positive relationship with them. Their instincts to sink their sharp strong talons into any source of food, including the human hand delivering the food, makes them dangerous to unskilled keeper. They do not understand life like humans do, and can beat their feathers apart when kept in cages or homes. To properly feed an owl requires an array of mice, rats, rabbits and processed raptor diet depending on the species. Their enclosures must be of adequate size for flying, include a large bath pan, and have solid walls and absorbent floor covering for hard-to-clean feces management. Finally, raptors have been revered by man for centuries. Falconry began in ancient China and to this day falconers are taught through a 2 year apprenticeship to protect the falconer, his bird and the wild owl population resource in general. No one who loves owls and wants to help them, would keep one as a pet, let alone call any raptor a 'pet.'"
If you like owls, sponsor one at a rehab center near you. You can visit and see her when it’s convenient and leave the care and the carcass preparation to the experts.