Xena is a Eurasian Eagle Owl. Normally she would be living somewhere in Europe or Asia, but she was born and raised in captivity in the United States. She lives with her handler, wildlife rehabilitator Lisa Acton, in upstate New York. Lisa takes her to schools, fairs, and events, and together they show people why they should respect and admire the wildlife who live around them. Xena is always calm and dignified.
Then she goes home and toilet papers Lisa’s house.
“The great thing about raising an education bird,” says Lisa, “is that you can do everything you’re never allowed to do with the wild ones.” Rehabbers have to grin and bear it during baby season; we raise incredibly cute wild birds behind masks, give them no human attention, and make sure they bond with each other and not us.
But raising an ed bird means you can coochy-coochy them to your heart’s content. When Xena was a nestling, Lisa hauled her around in a basket lined with pink blankets. When she left on business trips, her husband Joe would take the owlet to the auto shop where he works, set her up in a playpen, and feed her every hour. Owls are smart birds and need stimulation, so they’d supply her with an endless array of toys … including, one day, a roll of toilet paper.
“That was a mistake,” says Lisa today.
Shredding toilet paper became Xena’s life’s mission. As a fledgling she’d wander through the house until she found the bathroom, then hop on the toilet and launch herself at the roll. When she took to the air she’d do a fly-by, sailing out of the bathroom with her white prey clutched in her talons. When Lisa put her out in their screened-in porch, Xena would barrel through the dog door and head for the bathroom.
Eventually they had to block off the dog door because she started breaking her tailfeathers. Now the porch is her flight cage, where she likes to spend most of her time. When she wants to come into the house, she hoots and is escorted in through the regular door.
“Do I love her?” asks Lisa. “Absolutely. I adore her. If I had it to do over again, would I? No way.”
At 14 pounds, Xena is a huge bird and makes a huge mess. She considers everything a shreddable toy and cleaning up after her is no picnic. Since she’s imprinted, she’s used to and requires enormous amounts of attention. She has a daily training schedule, and if she misses more than a couple of days in a row she’ll act like a toddler throwing a tantrum.
And considering Eagle Owls are capable of taking down young deer, we don’t want her throwing too many tantrums.
Xena’s specialty is raising funds for pediatric cancer. Check out her Facebook page. And if you’re in the area, she can be the star of your event.
Yes, they are huuuuge. In Hamburg, there is currently a promising field experiment to make Eagle Owls unload container ships: all you have to do is paint a rat on the containers and they’ll carry them off.
That’s so funny! Amazing when you think a red tailed hawk only weighs about 2 pounds. Wouldn’t want one of those owls landing on the back of MY neck.
Wow! That’s one hell of a pet. Zena must give you a lot of pleasure.
Funny how the “innocent” look turns to one of “naughtiness” and “evil” as the bird ages!
Luckily you have to have all kinds of licenses in order to keep one, and the licenses are difficult to obtain. A friend had a Great Horned Owl education bird at her raptor center who was normally a really calm and well behaved bird, but one day he was in a bad mood, grabbed my friend, and his talon went through her palm and out the back of her hand. And Great Horns are way smaller than Eagle Owls.
Hopefully, one day, you’ll have to get a license to have a parrot. Then we won’t see nearly as many in rescue. Thanks for the work you do and for the blog! Love Xena!
Thanks Taylor, and I wish you had to have a license to have a parrot! People have NO IDEA how much care they need in order for them not to go crazy.