Wesley the barn owl

Photo credit: Tony Hisgett

I just finished reading the book “Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl,” and it was wonderful! I highly recommend it to everyone, you don’t have to be an owl fan or a bird fanatic in order to appreciate this book.

The book is about the author, Stacey O’Brien, and her barn owl Wesley that she adopted when he was only four days old. It all started when she was working at Caltech as a biologist in the owl department and an owlet with an injured wing needed a home. Stacey decided she was up for the task and became Wesley’s mom.

Wouldn’t it be so cool to have a pet owl? Well, it turns out that taking care of an owl is crazy hard work. Barn owls only eat mice and Stacey had to learn how to kill mice for Wesley. First she tried cutting off their heads, but then learned it was much easier to flick the wrist just so and break their necks, a technique that led to a serious case of carpal tunnel. As an adult Wesley ate up to six mice a day. That means as an owl parent you have to somehow acquire and kill close to 2,200 mice a year!

Despite this whole mouse diet inconvenience, Stacey falls head over heels for Wesley and they form a very special bond. The story is about their relationship peppered with amazing barn owl facts, Caltech lore, the dating mishaps encountered when raising an owl and the life challenges they faced together.

I don’t want to give everything away, so I will try to wet your appetite with a couple interesting tidbits from the book:

1. Barn owls mate for life and when one dies, the survivor shuts down and wills itself to die. (p. 225)

2. Wesley developed a strange fascination with water and insisted on taking baths! A habit that would have surely killed him in the wild since barn owls don’t have feathers adapted for such activities. (This is discussed often in the book.)

Everyone should read this book! It’s one of those stories that tugs at every heart string and demonstrates that despite flesh or feathers, love knows no bounds.


  1. Peggy Gilges says

    I’ve read this book and highly recommend it. The relationship between Stacey and Wesley is deep and unique, as are all our long-term relationships with animals.

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