Thanksgiving Visit of a Beloved Family Member

We often don’t tell our own stories because we are too busy telling those of our ancestors. While I have a short break from my kitchen duties, I’d like to share the story of a beloved family member.

Nope, not a person! Nor a pet, for sure!

Hootie’s story begins in June 2017. Dave called me out onto the back patio because he wanted me to look at something. He didn’t say what, but when I got outside, he said I think he’s probably injured and is going to die.

The little guy (or girl, maybe!) had stretched himself up to make himself look as big as possible with these two unknown creatures looking at him.

We are quite sure he was a very young owl, likely born in the spring.

He certainly didn’t look too happy to see us. A little research online told me he was a Western screech owl. A favorite habitat is the Arizona wash area, which we have right in our backyard.

The next time we looked for him, he had flown up to the rafter in a small cubby space of our patio roof.

I started talking to him and, being the uncreative soul that I am, named him/her Hootie.

He had a very regular routine. Each evening, right at dusk, Hootie flew off into the wash. Each morning, right at dawn, he came back to his cubby perch and slept through the day.

Well, he slept except for all the times I would talk to him and wake him up!

Hootie stayed with us until the third week of August. One morning, I looked out my den window and Hootie wasn’t there. Nor was he there the next day or the day after.

Dave, our son and I had all become very fond of Hootie, but figured he had matured and flown off to make his home in a comfy cactus, vacated by a bird.

We also didn’t know if we’d ever see him again.

Early one morning in the last week of January 2018, I looked out my den window. Hootie’s perch can be seen from there and I was in the habit of looking for him even though he’d been gone since August. Much to my excited surprise, Hootie was there! Of course, we all ran outside and talked to him. He stayed for about a week and then was gone again.

The summer of 2018 passed with no sign of our little Hootie. Western screech owls only grow to about 7 or 8 inches tall at most and have an average life span of 2-9 years. We were hoping that he found a mate and had a nice little family of owlets.

January 2019 arrived and, as we headed into the final week, I looked out my window and Hootie had come back to visit. He stayed only a couple of days and, soon after, I was off to RootsTech in Salt Lake City. While I was gone, Dave emailed a photo of Hootie and said he had come back. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there when I returned home.

We decided that Hootie liked his home with us and knew he was loved and admired. We were definitely his humans and he was a part of the family. Not a pet, as we never tried to touch him or feed him. Hootie was still a wild animal and he had to fend for himself in life.

January seemed to be Hootie’s favored time to grace us with his visits, so imagine my surprise last year, when on the day before Thanksgiving 2019, I looked out my window and Hootie was there!

This time, he stayed with us, in his usual routine of heading out into the wash at dusk and returning with the first sign of daylight, all the way until Valentine’s Day 2020. On 15 February 2020, he flew off in the morning.

Again, no summer visits. I’d share more photos of Hootie, but they all look the same, with him up in his cubby.

Yesterday, Dave and I were oohing and ahhing over Rocky, the little owl in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree who was set free after his recuperation.

He was so cute and we remarked how he was so small, just  like Hootie. We wondered if we would ever see Hootie again.

I woke up this morning and looked out my window, as usual, wondering if Hootie was doing well and if he was going to come visit us again. I had to look twice to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me in the dawn’s light.

Hootie is here!

In spite of the pandemic, my beautiful Hootie has done well and, with an incredible sense of timing, he has returned on Thanksgiving Day 2020 to say hello. Hootie brought a smile to my face once again.

Hootie even looked at the camera to say hi to everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving!




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