I have two favorite animals. They are, oddly enough, a predator/prey pair – owls and rabbits.
I’ve loved bunnies since I was very small, when I had an enormous collection of rabbit plushies, as well as a lop-eared rabbit named Buttercup.
Buttercup was half a house-rabbit, and she was pretty awesome. One of her favorite hobbies was stealing pencils from my desk and then running next to the railing with it, going THUMPATHUMPATHUMPATHUMPA up and down the hallway.
I’ve not had another rabbit since then, mostly because I have cats and I can’t really afford another pet, but someday I’d like to get another house rabbit.
The wiggly nose and the giant ears and the big furry feets just melt my heart.
Sometime around when I was five or six years old, though, I had two encounters with owls that secured them in my heart forever. First we had a Great Horned Owl in the woods behind my house. My dad and I used to sit outside at night and listen for him/her, and s/he hung around for quite awhile before moving on.
Because I’d showed interest, dad took me to a place nearby called the Raptor Trust, a local bird-of-prey rehabilitation center. Along with all the hawks and a bald eagle, the Trust had a large number of owls, several of whom were permanent residents due to injury. The Great Grey Owl took my interest first, because he was just so HUGE.
His look of perpetual surprise didn’t hurt anything either. These guys can get to be almost three feet tall (yes, three feet), and they’re one of, if not the, largest owls on the planet. The Great Grey at the Raptor Trust wasn’t very personable, but he’d been wild until he got hit by a car, so one of his wings didn’t work. Nobody blamed him for being a little depressed.
He was my first favorite, but then we met the Barn Owl.
The little Barn Owl at the Trust had been raised in captivity, a baby who had been raised improperly and wouldn’t be able to live around humans. However, her incredible curiosity and familiarity with humans made her pretty endearing, and she’d play a little owl version of “Simon Says” with visitors.
Those two owls remained my favorite for a long time, long after I’d moved to Texas (and stopped seeing and hearing owls, but contenting myself with identifying the various hawks in the Dallas area) and grown up and was no longer able to visit or donate to the Raptor Trust.
But one of the things about living in the swamp down here is that I live very close to several large nature preserves. These areas exist to protect the coastal and bayou landscapes and hopefully slow the loss of coastal wetlands.
And here in the swamp, I heard and fell in love with a new owl.
The Barred Owl.
I haven’t ever seen one in the wild, and I’ve only heard the one here a few times, but after listening to their call, I couldn’t help but be quite fond of them.
Well, different owls have different calls. The Great Horned Owl is the one with the typical “Hoo hoohoohoo” call that people associate with owls. The Barred Owl is similar, but the way you remember the barred owl call is to say, in a hooty voice, “HOO cooks for YOU? HOO cooks for YOOOOOOooooo?” and it’s AWESOME. (Great YouTube of a Barred Owl call)
Obviously I will never keep an owl myself – they are wild critters and don’t do well in captivity unless they can’t survive in the wild. They’re also notoriously hard to train (as are most raptors), making the Harry Potter series all that much more impressive.
And yes, I do audibly squee with each Harry Potter scene that involves the Owl Post, especially the ones with LOTS of owls. OWLS! (While the three pictured are my “favorites”, I love pretty much all owls. They’re so awesome!)
So those are my two favorite animals. I have them as pictures and figurines in my house wherever possible, and I’m hard to get out of the owl house at the zoo.
What are your favorite critters?
*For extra cute, have a look at this little owl, practicing his pouncing skills.