Thursday, February 9, 2012

Interview With Orion, The Great Horned Owl

Every Thursday morning, my friend Rachael volunteers at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center in the hills outside Los Angeles. She puts on her falconer’s sleeve, fetches her friend Orion, the Great Horned Owl, and spends time outside with him. Sometimes adults and children that visit the sanctuary come by and interact with Orion.

If not, Rachael calls her friends and chats on the phone. I look forward to Rachael’s phone calls every Thursday and now more than ever because Orion talks to me too. That is he chirps and twitters into the phone. It's really a call from the wild and I had no idea a huge bird like Orion could make those sounds. I get chills and tears in my eyes and I feel honored and grateful for the experience. Rachael tells me he makes those sounds for her only. I wanted to talk to him more and that gave me the idea to do this interview with Orion:

Inger: Hello, Orion, first I want to thank you for granting me this interview. I was so thrilled you agreed to talk to me  after you chirped in my ear the other day.
Orion: You’re welcome to the interview, but I must correct you: I didn’t chirp into your ear, I chirped into Rachael’s cell phone and it must have chirped into you ear.
Inger: OK, you are right. Now Orion, you are such a magnificent bird.  May I ask how old you are?
Orion: Yes, I’m 22 years old. We can live a long time in captivity, one of the other owls here recently died at the age of 35.
Inger: That's really very old. Now how did you get your name?
Orion: I was named for the master hunter and  
constellation: Orion.

IngerNow, let me ask you some owl questions. I know owls can see very far, can you tell me how far you can actually see?
Orion: They (people) say if I could read and they put a newspaper at one end of a football field and I was at the other end, I could actually read it. (Of course, they (people) don’t know if I can read or not.)
Inger: Wow! That’s amazing! Now tell me about your silent flight options.
Orion: In the wild, we have to be silent fliers so we can catch our prey. The prey is also the reason we can see so well, forget about reading newspapers and all that silly people stuff. We have special fringed feathers that allow us to fly very silently.
Inger: That makes sense. Is there anything else about owls that you’d like to tell me?

Orion: Yes, I can hear just about as well as I can see. My ears are placed in such a way that I pick up sounds better than most. 
Inger: That's impressive. You are a formidable hunter, aren't you? Now tell me about your eyes. I know you can't move them in their sockets. So what do you do when you want to look around? 
Orion: If I want to look to the side, I have to turn my head because I can only look straight forward.
Inger: Oh, and that reminds me of another question. One I’m sure you have heard before. Is it true that owls can turn their heads all the way around?
Orion: Duh! We’d be dead then, having wrung our own necks, wouldn’t we? But I can turn my head 3/4  way around, and very fast. I wonder why I always get that question.
Inger: I don’t know how that rumor got started, but I’ll put your answer in my blog so at least some people will learn the truth about that issue. Now, I bet you are happy when Racahel comes to visit you.

Orion: Yes, I’m always very, very happy to see Rachael. Rachael is my very own volunteer. She comes every week and tells me everything she’s been up to since we last saw each other. I do the same. I tell her all the latest that goes on here at the sanctuary. It’s the highlight of my week when Rachael comes and I get to sit on her falconer’s sleeve and watch all the goings on in the woods. We usually sit under a big tree and I get to see all kinds of animals, birds, and people. Rachael is a very kind person, who takes so much time out of her week to help me and all kinds of other animals, even snakes, lizards, and feral cats. Can you imagine? And, and, guess what?
Inger: What?
Orion: She tells me I'm her Boyfriend!
Inger: If I put that in my blog, it will be all over the internet. 
Orion: It's OK, you can put it in your blog.
Inger: Thank you very much, Orion, for taking time to talk with me and thank you Rachael for facilitating this interview. Finally, I would like to ask Rachael how the falconer's sleave works.

Rachael: You are welcome. Here are a few words about the sleave that Orion sits on when I visit him:
Working with birds of prey is considered the art of falconry, even though he's an owl and not a falcon -- that term applies to all birds of prey. The equipment: he has leather anklets on (which get replaced as needed when they wear out) and they have little slits in the bottom of them. A swivel goes thru the slits and then a leash goes thru the swivel, which is then wound around your fingers on your gloved hand -- this all keeps him attached to the handler. It's called 'manning' him. There is a little slack in the leash so that he can 'bait' -- which means trying to fly off of your hand. You don't want it so tight that he can't bait.
Inger: Thank you very much for all this interesting information, Rachael and Orion.
Rachael and Orion: You are welcome.
Click on the tab, Sydney's Legacy, located at the top of my blog to see my earlier posts about Rachael's animal education program with that name. You can also visit Rachael on her website: 
It's All About the Animals or click on Critter Education with Rachael toward the bottom of my sidebar to see Rachael on YouTube with her albino Burmese python, Sahara.
And there is more: to see a very cool video about the invasion of Snowy Owls in Washington state, filmed by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, please visit Upupaepop's blog:  It's gorgeous and you will see how the owls turn their heads.


  1. Hmmm, don't recall ever reading such an in-depth interview with an owl! Loved it! Orion is so handsome!
    Am I correct in assuming that Orion can not return to the wild for some reason?
    The owls I have seen at an animal preserve all had injuries that limited their ability to fly. I loved watching them... but sadly, never heard them talk. Well, except for the screech owl!

  2. orion is a beauty, but then, so is rachael. enjoyed getting to see their shared time. :)

  3. Oh Inger,
    That is lovely...the photos totally caputured my heart but the interview was such a delight!
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. Fascinating, thanks, Inger--& a big thank you to Rachel for doing what she does!!

  5. What a beautiful bird and such great info. I think Rachel has a fabulous boyfriend! I'm going to go tweet about that now :-)

  6. Orion is gorgeous, what a wing span. baby does look a lot like Soldier, but if you want to see our real Soldier look alike, go to the blog click on baby girls picture and you will see MAX in the labels on the side bar. he was our dog we had for 16 years and is so much like soldier. the first time i visited your blog I showed it to my husband and commented how much Max and baby look like him.

  7. What a gorgeous creature! Love all the pics :-)

  8. Orion is GORGEOUS! This is fascinating. I can't wait to read this to my girls :)

  9. I LOVED this interview and the photos are wonderful. I need to go visit that place.

  10. One thing I really love is when my blog posts are read to children. Thanks Elisa, let me know what they think.

  11. What a magnificent bird. Thanks for posting the interview!

  12. Yes, a very interesting interview and some very pretty pictures that gather the edges of Rachael nice, really exciting.

  13. Yes, a very interesting interview and some very pretty pictures that gather the edges of Rachael nice, really exciting.

  14. Max was daddy's dog, he went everywhere with him. lucky for Max he lived 4 years after daddy retired and got lots of travel time while mommy worked. we had him from 12 hours old and when we had him put down, we were so upset we had to leave town, could not stay in the house. we both said, we will wait a while before we get another dog. 2 weeks later, we had baby, she was 10 months when we rescued her, she was badly abused but has lived in heaven since

  15. Inger! You have missed your 'calling'! A roving reporter! It is never too late!
    I have just learned a thing or two and appreciate these birds a lot more! Thanks Inger, and thanks Rachael and Orion!

  16. I enjoyed this interview with Orion :-)
    Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my bean post. I know they are wonderful for diabetics and that is why I eat them too.

  17. Dear Inger,
    An outstanding interview! Orion shared so much with you because you were so respectful of him. I'm sure he appreciated that. Rachael and Orion certainly seem to have bonded in a special way.

    I never realized just how interesting owls were. Your interview taught me a lot.

    I'm wondering, Inger, if you are the woman with the sunglasses, blond hair, and black jacket? If so, Orion certainly has taken to you too!


  18. Kul intervju med Orion. VIsste inte att man kunde ha uggolor med än falkar vilket är vanligare. Ledig imorgon vilket är skönt. SKall ut till jaktmarke och kolla våra balar om rådjuren äter där.

  19. What an incredibly handsome creature and I loved the interview. I really learned a lot. I was quite surprised at their lifespan. Thank you for this great post.

  20. I enjoyed the interview with Rachel and the photos of the Orion. Sandie

  21. We have a pair of Great Horned Owls on the ranch. We worried we'd scare them off when we moved in, but nope, they're "our" owls. We enjoy listening to them hoot-hoot-hoot to each other.

  22. Orion is quite stunning! Wishing I could spot an owl on our farm.

  23. Hi Inger - Your interview turned out awesome! Someone asked why Orion is in captivity -- if he was injured. Actually, he is perfectly healthy & fully flighted. The reason he has been sentenced to a life in captivity is that someone tried to make a pet out of him as a baby and he became 'imprinted.' He associates food with people and would starve if left to his own devices, so he has been deemed 'non-releasable.' It's a real shame... The upside is that at least he is a wonderful ambassador for his species and a great reminder that wild animals are not pets and deserve to live their lives out in the wild whenever possible. Also, the other folks in the pictures are my sister, Nancy, and her husband, Gabriel. Thanks Inger! The critters send their love:)

  24. Awesome interview with Orion. I didn't know you could speak Owl. (Great that you've taken time to learn a Critter language; Bear is impressed.)

    Sad to hear the rest of his story, via Rachel. Horrid fate for a magnificent bird.

  25. Orion is very, very beautiful and so is his girlfriend.


  26. I loved this interview. What a brilliant idea and such an amazing owl. I love his face.

  27. A fun and interesting post, Inger. Orion is a beautiful boy -- thank you for sharing his story. :)

  28. What a thoroughly fascinating interview. I learned lots that I didn't know about owls, and it was lovely to meet Rachael. Thank you SO much, Inger, for all this information and the awesome pictures. That owl is one magnificent creature!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

  29. Hej! Det var knoppar på en syrénhäck. De ver så stora och skiftade i grönt. Helt otroligt.
    Fototorka idag. Gråväder. Var ledig men fick ingen inspiration att bege mig ut. Imorgon skall jag till jaktmarken och kolla ensilagebalarna. Hoppas få se lite rådjur som äter dp. Trevlig kväll för det är det här nu ju. Kram!!

  30. A wonderful interview -- Orion is the picture of dignity.

  31. This was a fascinating post Inger! Loved the pictures too. I have a big owl that lives on my property and I love it when I see him.

  32. Å så otroligt vacker ugglan är!! Roligt och intressant med intervjun också :) Ha en trevlig helg :)

  33. I'd love to see a beautiful bird like this so close up and not behind a cage! Great shots!

  34. Hi Inger .. great pictures of Orion with some information on how he's so clever ..

    Loved seeing him .. cheers Hilary


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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