BUDDY: great horned owl
A good samaritan found Buddy by the side of a road and brought him to the Center in 1994. Our veterinarians found that Buddy was emaciated and X-rays revealed a fractured wing, which did not heal properly. In the wild, great-horned owls are silent and powerful hunters; they also need to defend their territory, and to escape from the attacks of mobbing birds such as crows. For these activities, they need strong flight and full wing extension. Without these attributes, Buddy is non-releasable.
For several years Buddy shared a cage with another great-horned owl, "Clacker," our California Hall of Fame bird who was seen and admired by many visitors. Buddy earned his name because, as Clacker's then-nameless cagemate, he was known to volunteers as "Clacker's buddy". As Clacker aged and neared retirement from the education program, it became clear that we needed to train another great-horned owl to share the job. So Buddy began the "taming"* process and quickly learned to stay calm "on the fist."
Buddy was an excellent educational ambassador. He was presented to many tour groups that visit us, and also traveled off-site to schools, clubs, and other wildlife educational events. He was very popular with crowds. Audiences of all ages enjoyed learning about raptors and their needs when Buddy was there, with his big yellow eyes and elegant "ear tufts." Sometimes he even obliged with a loud "hoo."
Buddy is now retired from being an educational ambassador and currently resides at the Center.
* Taming is the process of teaching a bird to stay perched on your gloved fist. The bird is fitted with special leather bracelets around the ankles, to which jesses, a swivel, and a leash are attached. This equipment keeps the bird from flying away or from injury if it should become agitated.