UPDATE: My Hootie and the Owl Whisperer

UPDATE ON HOOTIE: I spoke to the Tucson Wildlife Center this morning and explained how he wasn’t just a random injured animal, that he’s been living in our backyard several months each year for the last four years. I also shared that I’ve been worrying about him for 4 days. The lady with whom I spoke said Hootie didn’t have any foot injury – he has an eye injury! He is being rehabbed and is well cared for, but she couldn’t give me any time line. They are short staffed, so return phone calls aren’t at the top of the list and a phone call would be based on when Hootie is ready to come home and be released. I told her I might not be able to contain myself if I didn’t hear anything more by Monday, but I thanked her for taking the time to give me an update. So, Hootie is receiving great care. Let’s hope that his eye heals quickly and well so that he can be released. Oh – I asked if we could visit, but because of Covid, the center is closed to the public. 

This post is also being shared on Elizabeth O’Neal’s February 2021 Genealogy Blog Party. Hootie is an unusual love, but we definitely do love having him as part of our family.

As you know, I rarely venture off the ancestral trail with my posts. Today, I’d like to share a bit of yesterday’s adventures.

First – the background – Last fall, I shared the story of our family owl, or rather a local Western Screech Owl and his family of humans. Western Screech Owls are quite small as owls go. Adult size is only perhaps 7-9 inches tall.

For those who missed it, here is a quick synopsis of Hootie’s life.

He first appeared on our patio in June 2017, on the ground, and Dave asked me to come out and look at something. We looked at this little owl, he stretched himself up as tall as he could to look as big as possible. We thought he might be injured.

June 2017

However, a short while later, the little guy had found a nook in the rafters of our patio, which he adopted as his home.

I could have named him Fred or Abigail or Ulula, but with my lack of creativity and knowing that owls hoot, our little guy became Hootie. By the way, we’ve no idea whether Hootie is male or female.

Hootie quickly fell into a regular schedule that never, ever varied when he was visiting. Being a nocturnal little guy, at dusk, he left his cubby and flew onto an outdoor speaker a few feet away.

From there, he surveyed his kingdom – the great wash behind our backyard – and after about five minutes, he silently flew off into the night.

During the summer of 2017, I looked over the wall into the wash to see if I could figure out where he went. If I didn’t point him out, would you be able to find Hootie in this photo?

At dawn’s light the following morning, Hootie appeared on schedule, back in his cubby.

Hootie lived with us for about ten weeks. One night at the end of August 2017, I said goodnight to him and he flew away.

I checked his cubby every morning, but it remained empty for months. We figured Hootie had matured – he looked like a very young owl when we first met him – and was ready to live out on his own.

Mind you, we never tried to touch him and definitely never fed him anything – he had to learn to care for himself.

Five months later, during the last week of January 2018, I looked up in the cubby one morning and Hootie was BACK!!!! He stayed with us for a couple of weeks and then once again flew off into the night.

FYI – Owls puff themselves out in cold weather as a way to keep warm. He doesn’t usually look like a bowling ball!

After this second visit, a full year went by. Even though he had been gone for a year, I checked his cubby every morning, as it is right outside my den window.

Believe it or not, the last week of January 2019 rolled around and Hootie was BACK once again, visiting each morning for a couple of weeks before departing.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2019 and Hootie reappeared that day. I guess he wanted to spend the holidays with us. This visit was much longer as he stayed until Valentine’s Day 2020.

As we headed into the pandemic holiday season of 2020, I wondered if Hootie would appear and spend some time with his humans. Well, the day before Thanksgiving, Hootie came home to see his humans!

That’s the story of how Hootie adopted us.

But what is the link between Hootie and the Owl Whisperer?

First, Hootie’s sense of timing is quite incredible, not only in the seasonal times during the year when he comes to visit, but in his 24 hour daily routine.

He didn’t leave on Valentine’s Day this year. He is still with us and every morning I look up at his cubby, smile and talk to him. On Wednesday and Thursday this week, he arrived at 6:42 a.m. and departed at 6:32 p.m. Needless to say, Hootie doesn’t need a watch to tell time!

Yesterday morning, I looked up at the cubby at 6:38 a.m. and Hootie wasn’t home yet. I looked at 6:41 and he was there, but something wasn’t right.

He always settles himself into the small space with his back to the rafters so he can see anyone or anything that might be around the patio.

However, this time, he was sideways in the cubby, with his left wing partially opened.

I looked again a few minutes later and he was in his usual position, but his face didn’t have the same calm sleepy look to it. I knew something wasn’t quite right.

In spite of how he looked – he is a wild animal – I closed the window shade as I do every morning to keep the sun’s glare off my computer screen. I think Hootie has also learned that the closed shade means nap time.

At midday, like always, I opened the shade. Hootie WASN’T there. That never, never, ever, ever happens. He never leaves his cubby during daylight hours.

I also thought about how something looked wrong with him in the morning so I went out in the yard looking for him.

Here is the area where he was:

My little Hootie was on the ground and in the sunlight, in a corner next to our barbecue. He looked a bit kerfluffled, definitely not himself, and there were a few feathers on the ground below his cubby and even two floating in the pool.

I approached Hootie and talked to him and he looked intently back at me. He seemed to have some kind of injury that happened on Thursday night, but I didn’t know what was wrong.

Dave called the Tucson Wildlife Center and asked for advice. They said if we could capture him using gloves and a towel, they would care for him.

Well, Hootie let me crouch just a foot away from him – he gurgled and spit at Dave, who doesn’t have nearly as many conversations with him as I do – but when I slowly raised the towel, Hootie flew a few feet away and landed between the planter water features at the side of our pool. I think it was a better spot for him, out of the direct sunlight.

The towel didn’t work and I had been emailing my friend Deane, who knew all about Hootie’s life with us. She sent me a link to 1st Response Wildlife and Josh, who is a licensed humane animal trapper.

I called immediately and left a message. About an hour and a half later, Josh called back, apologizing that it took so long. He had been rescuing a raccoon stuck in a fence down in Green Valley.

We hired him to come catch Hootie for us so we could take him to be checked out at the Tucson Wildlife Center.

An hour later, Josh was in our yard, talking to Hootie, who hadn’t moved from the planter niche. Josh wore a pair of gloves, walked up to get close to Hootie, and, with ONE hand and ONE attempt, he CAPTURED Hootie.

A quick examination and Josh said Hootie had injured his foot in a bait trap somewhere. Those traps are used by home owners to catch rodents and pack rats. However, Josh said Hootie had good energy, his wings were healthy and the Wildlife Center could nurse him back to health.

He loaned us a pet carrier and Hootie was ready for his trip.

I doubt he was terribly happy. It was 6:00 p.m. and he leaves for dinner at 6:32. Here he was in a pet carrier.

First, I brought him in the house while we got our stuff together – masks and all – for the trip to the center. I never dreamed Hootie would ever be in our house in any way shape or form, but we talked to him and he was calm.

After Hootie’s short visit in the house, I strapped the pet container into a seat belt in the car and Dave and I headed out to the center.

Hootie was very well behaved and I talked to him a lot on the way there.

It’s so far out on Speedway that the first time I ever drove out there, I thought we must be just a few feet from New Mexico!

The center is actually at the dead end of East Speedway Blvd., next to part of Saguaro National Park.

The center is open 24/7 and said we could bring Hootie right in.

By the time we got there, it was pitch black. And I mean pitch black. There is nothing but darkness and a few animal noises out there at night.

We got Hootie checked in. He is patient #215 and we’ll be calling today to see how he is doing. When his foot is healed, the Tucson Wildlife Center people will bring him back home to us and release him back into the wash behind our yard.

I’ll know more about the timeline later today.

Hootie isn’t in his cubby this morning, but he is receiving care and his dinner menu last night included some nice mice, so his little tummy is full today.

I believe Hootie left his cubby to let his humans know that he needed help. He didn’t struggle at all once he was captured and I hope he understood that the car trip meant he was on his way to comfort and healing.

Dave and I have to give a big thank you to Josh, who is truly an Owl Whisperer, and the Tucson Wildlife Center for the work they do.

The Center doesn’t even charge for animal care, but they do take donations. Dave and I will be making a nice one. 🙂

I’ll keep you updated on Hootie’s progress.


4 thoughts on “UPDATE: My Hootie and the Owl Whisperer”

  1. What a heart-warming story, Linda. It’s great that you’d been talking to Hootie and that he seemed to know he was safe on your patio and in your presence. I hope he heals quickly and continues to visit you often when he comes home.

  2. Captivating story, Linda, loved it. Isn’t it a pity he missed census night in 2020!!! I do hope he makes a full recovery and visits you long into the future.

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