I have the keys to their enclosures. The raptors. I open them, one at a time, and do service for owls and hawks and eagles and falcons. I rake and clean and water while they, wild talon shod birds, study my every move. As I work, I can’t help but ask: how do you talk to Owls?
4 – Widget and Love
There’s a barn owl named Widget in his indoor cage playing with his toy, a child’s stuffed owl. They just gave it to him because he was getting all lovey dovey with his handler’s arms. So he’s got the stuffy by the neck with his beak, and he’s walking on her. It looks kind of aggressive, but I imagine love making can look that way when you stand back from it and see it with a kind of objective ignorance. He seems pretty attentive to her in any case. He’s one of the many birds who imprinted on humans during delicate bonding age, and though he’s physically fine, he wouldn’t survive outside. He’s one of the educational birds, the ones I don’t handle…. Not yet anyway.
It just so happens that he’s received his love mate the day I am joined by my own true love. It’s Thanksgiving weekend and someone has bailed for Friday scrapping and I’m on call duty. R. is like a kid on the way to the fair, where cotton candy and roller coasters await. He’s practically bouncing in the morning as we make coffee. Earlier in the week, he can’t stop telling everyone about his excitement at going to help clean cages. It’s pretty adorable to watch. His giddiness. We step into the staff room to get prepared and there’s widget, having a good time with his new love.
- and I share a look. You know, the kind that says, yeah baby, isn’t that fun and don’t we know all about it. Giggling maybe.
So out we go to the enclosures and the wild birds where I am scrapping and R. just stares at the birds. Wonderment. Wonderment. And more wonderment. As I clean. I get tons of pleasure just watching him appreciate the birds. He’s dancing inside. Vibrating. Weepy even. Awed. He’s sucking in all that amazing bird energy and yet it’s raining and cold and pretty soon we’re tired and hungry and we go back inside for a break. And Widget’s on the floor of his cage looking sad. Making funny squeaking noises under his breath. He’s not the same bird he had been an hour earlier and he’s alone in the cage.
He’d dropped his love into his water bowl and now it is in the laundry. I know that feeling. It’s not separation anxiety, it’s just that the world isn’t coloured the same way when my love is away. It’s that simple. And I get it: Widget hadn’t finished with his loving.