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Tree Child

Story by Ellen Ensley Created 2002-08-06
Page 3 of 19

Chapter 3 - Sushi gets Identified

It was very difficult not to pet Sushi. The bird was never allowed to perch on a shoulder, and was only handled perched on a glove when he had to be moved. This was not a pet. This was to be a wild bird. In the meantime, while Sushi was still a helpless baby, (a brancher), he had to go everywhere with us.

At sunrise every morning, Sushi went to work with us at our upholstery shop. There he would sleep the day away in-between frequent feedings of live minnows and canned catfood. In no time Sushi could expertly eat catfood out of a spoon. All of our employees would take turns feeding him. He was always hungry.

In between his naps, Sushi would hop up on the edge of his big basket on the countertop, and there he would sit, watching everyone with that funny circular head motion. He was an unusually quiet bird, as long as he had a full tummy.

The silver ball of fluff began taking on color. Now there were distinct, beautiful, striking, barred feathers popping out of the down. The new feathers were quite lovely, but the bird was still ugly because he was molting.

By now, we were sure this was an owl, but a brown-eyed owl? His eyes had remained the color of dark chocolate with big black pupils. The eyes were mesmerizing. Sushi didn't mind staring directly at you for hours. It is unnerving to gaze into the eyes of an unblinking owl. It seems as if you could look right through to another world if you stared long enough into those deep, dark pools.

Once Sushi's feathers came into full bloom, we were finally able to identify him through pictures on The Owl Pages. Sushi was one of only a few brown-eyed owls in Florida. Sushi was a Barred Owl, species Strix varia. Also known as the Swamp Owl. No wonder he was so happy in our back yard. It was the perfect habitat.

As I researched owls, I was struck by the superstitions, fear and folklore surrounding these birds. On one hand they are considered as representing great wisdom, helpfulness and having the gift of prophecy. On the other hand, they were considered evil harbingers of death, destruction and ill omen.

It was hard to believe that our charming little owlet had once been hated, feared, killed, and even eaten over a lot of superstitious nonsense. If Sushi was a messenger of ill omen, it was because he arrived shortly before September 11th 2001. But, he was also a source of many hours of entertainment and enjoyment for a lot of people, both old and young.

"The custom of nailing owls to barn doors to ward off evil and lightening persisted into the 19th Century in England" - Man, Myth & Magic

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