Sunday, April 29, 2012

Great Horned Owl - RIP...

The air in the house felt a little stuffy, but the temperature outside was dropping. A perfect night to open the windows, turn on the ceiling fan, crawl under the covers and get a good night's sleep with both dogs snuggling right in there, too.

Sometime in the middle of the night Big Daddy awoke and thought, "Oh, no. That ceiling fan finally bit the dust, and now I've got one more thing to add to my to-do list." And he went back to sleep.

A while later I awoke and thought, "I wonder why Big Daddy turned off the ceiling fan. It's not like him to get chilled in the middle of the night." And I went back to sleep.

When I got up early in the morning to let the dogs out, I realized we had no electricity. Strange, since the only time we might normally lose electricity is in the midst of a dangerous wind and thunder storm, but the previous night had been dry and calm.

So I used my cell phone to call the power company, anticipating a recording telling me they are aware of the problem and expecting it to be repaired by a certain time. Instead, I learned I was the first to report an outage in my area. And less than half an hour later, a power company lineman was at our house resetting the breaker on the transformer and showing us the reason behind the outage, which was limited to our house - a Great Horned Owl had been electrocuted when he decided to perch right next to that transformer.

He was such a majestic bird. Note the feathering on the right upper side
of his head, which gives the "horned" appearance.
The coloring on his underside was quite intricate. Note how the foot on the left appears drawn in.
His talons show how he was able to grab and hold onto his prey.
Note the zapped talon on the left where mega volts of electricity entered his body.

Here is what he would have looked like in flight. Again, the "horns" over the eyes and the white band under his head verify that he was a Great Horned Owl.
Here is another view of that zapped talon.

This is not the first owl to meet his demise at Le Rustique, but the other incident is a whole different story (saved for another day). Of course we would have liked to keep this owl, but it's against federal law to do so. Since this owl was so freshly dead and also intact (except for one talon), I was certain our local office of Missouri Department of Conservation would want to come and get it. It would make a great educational specimen. Instead, as they did with the other owl, they told us just to take it into the woods for disposal. And so, with a prayer for the spirit of the owl and a hope that he had not been the only one here, we took him into the woods.
We chose  a spot deep in the woods, but not in the densest area, and
we laid his body inconspicuously at the base of an old dying cedar tree.
The good news is that later that same day and throughout the night, we heard more owls sounding their beautiful hoots all around Le Rustique. We can only hope that those sounds are wafting the spirit of our owl to some hallowed land.

One of my favorite books of all time is I Heard The Owl Call My Name, a small novel by Margaret Craven (Copyright 1973). It was out of print for several years, but it's available again HERE. It's a beautiful read if you're interested.


  1. aww. i'm so sorry! we had a buzzard fry himself and take out our transformer once. hate to see an owl do so.

  2. You have given us the good, the bad and the very sad today all in one post. Good that hubby does not have to replace the fan, bad that you had to endure some time without power and so very sad that a majestic creature had to be at the heart of it all.

  3. Thank you for sharing the story and pictures. Hopefully the owl is already starting his next adventure (and hopefully he recalls the zapping incident as not to do it again!).

  4. This makes me so sad! Thank you for taking good care and sending him to the after life with his dignity in tack.

  5. That's so sad. I love hearing them in our woods here too, but I've never been able to see one up close. Thanks for the info on the book. I ordered it and I'm hoping it gets here before we leave for Maine next week.

  6. What a magnificent bird. It was very interesting to see its coloring and talons. It's sad that it didn't live. We have them around here but we must have more barred owls that call to each other all night long.

  7. So sad. I really enjoy seeing the Great Horned Owls. Have not seen any in quite awhile though.

  8. Sad story. Glad you shared it with us though. ♥

  9. Beautiful bird even if he did have to get "the chair". I hear them around often, but rarely see one except very briefly. There are vultures everywhere on the other hand which I could do without.

  10. Such a sad ending to this beautiful bird! But this happens a lot, with birds or squirrels, as my lineman hubby has told me.

  11. awww...what a sad story. it's the squirrels around here that get zapped, mostly in the light of day!!

    the begining of your story was funny, the ceiling fan part ;)))

  12. It's definitely a loss that's difficult to bear -- but its something we see frequently in rural areas. Thank you for the photos -- very educational. :)

  13. I would have been heart broken. I love hearing my owls hoot hoot as I sit on the porch at night. He was a beauty. So sad. I'm surprised the Dept. of Conservation didn't want him.

  14. Such a shame, he was a gorgeous bird! You found a lovely spot for him.

  15. you turned such a sad post into an uplifting one. beautiful spot in your woods.

  16. Wow! Great story. Wonderful pictures! I cannot understand why you couldn't keep the owl if they didn't want him. The native Americans kept heads, talons, feathers, furs, etc. to honor the spirits of wild animals. Oh, well. The govt. has to DO something to justify their existence. Thanks for the great pics again! I've looked at them several times..

  17. oh my goodness! what an interesting story...everythig about it!! the owls are beautiful majestic birds of prey...we hear them all the time...
    I remember that book, I heard the owl call my name..i just suggested it to my son.

  18. Nice to meet you! Thanks for stopping by my blog!
    Sounds like you know the MDC #, two post in a row. We had an owl get trapped in a tree after a tornado went through several years ago. MDC wasn't helpful at all on that call, and in the end told us they couldn't come out to kill the wounded bird we would have to.

    You gotta love the linemen!! (I work for a coop) Are you serviced by a coop?


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