A Chance Encounter with a Famous Owl

This past August I attended the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and had a brush with fame. Located on the estate of the Mount Hope Winery, the faire is home to the wide variety of acts and demonstrations we have come to expect at Renaissance themed events. Alongside the jousts and human chess, the jugglers and musicians, was Her Majesty’s Royal Falconer. It didn’t take much convincing to get my party to both take a look at the birds in their pens and to check out one of their daily educational demonstrations. The faclconer, Ash Cary gave a wonderful talk entitled Knightwings: Birds of Prey, which included a lot of information about the efforts made toward conservation of birds of prey. To learn more about Cary and his conservation efforts, you can visit the website of his non-profit One World Raptor at https://oneworldraptor.org/

Unfortunately, I had decided I would enjoy the faire more without carrying the weight of my camera and lens, so I was forced to rely on a phone camera for the show. As you might expect, not all the birds are included in each demonstration. Our demonstration included Zuul, a South American Black Hawk-Eagle and Ulysses, a European Eagle Owl. While Zuul was a beautiful bird, it was Ulysses who completely captivated me. Elegant and distinguished, his large size dominated your attention from the moment he emerged. And one look into his large orange eyes with their disdaining disinterest, and you understand immediately why humans often personify owls as being stuck up and haughty.

It is really a small wonder that Ulysses caught my attention. Eagle Owls are the largest species of owl in the world. While in looks they somewhat resemble the Great Horned Owl, the Eagle Owl is over two feet tall. Its size is further enhanced with its “fluffy” plumage, presenting a large girth that seems formidable. Ulysses and other Eagle Owls have yellowish brown bellies with darker brown wings and back. Besides their large orange eyes, their other distinctive facial feature are their long ear tufts on either side of their forehead, which stand straight up except when they are in flight. The young look much less distinguished, being as white as snow with fluffy downy bodies, resembling a clump of cotton candy.

When living in the wild, Eagle Owls reside in mountain regions. They like forests that have rocks or cliffs. They often nest in the cliffs and spend most of the daytime hours roosting in coniferous trees. Like many other owls, they feed on small mammals and small birds.

As if Ulysses was not cool enough already, he is also a movie star. According to Cary, he was cast as Draco Malfoy’s owl in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001). A quick review of the movie credits indicated that they did not list every animal by name. I decided to re-watch the movie in full to see if I can spot him. While he might have been cast as Draco’s owl, I am confident that there are no scenes of Draco with an owl. I did however spot a European Eagle Owl in a few scenes. Assuming that owl was Ulysses, he was in the first scene, sitting on the street sign as baby Harry is delivered to his aunt and uncle’s home and he was the owl who delivered the first Hogwart’s letter to Harry. He was hanging on the roof with several other owls trying to deliver Hogwart’s letters when uncle Vernon goes to work, he was among other familiars hanging out in Diagon alley and he also delivered some mail to Hogwarts when Neville received his remembrall. Unfortunately my DVD doesn’t include deleted scenes so I couldn’t investigate further.

I am very excited because this post has given me the opportunity to use the newest resource in my growing bird library, a gift from my husband Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe text by Lars Svensson, 2009.

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