I'm soon turning 33. I want to pet an owl for my birthday.
February 6, 2014 10:18 AM   Subscribe

What I would love is for someone to bring the owl to my apartment's patio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The owl will be skritched for about an hour, by 5 - 10 responsible, sober adults. Basically, this is my dream, but with an owl.

I have contacted Nature Nick, who doesn't have his owl anymore. (But did offer me a cool Fennec Fox.) I've also called these folks, but they don't have an owl either. The last guy I tried is based in Detroit—nowhere near NYC.

I would rather not have a big, clowny "TADAAAAA" show about it, or an educational experience—I'm an adult, I can (and do!) google owls all the time.

I really just want an owl and his handler to show up and let us skritch him.

Can anyone help me out here? I need to ruffle a feather.
posted by ulfberht to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot: I would rather the owl come to us because getting out of NYC is a huge pain. I can do it, if nothing turns up, but would rather just stay at my place!
posted by ulfberht at 10:20 AM on February 6, 2014

I think what wkearney is trying to say is that owls are not really meant to endure this sort of coddling from humans. The ones you see on YouTube are creatures who were rescued or forcibly taken from their natural habitat and have bonded with their owner (and sometimes ONLY their owner). They're not like falcons or hawks. They are not trained to perform services in the way other animals can be. To transport an owl to you would likely cause it duress, especially if it is used to being in one space at a sanctuary or zoo. Why does your need to pet an owl (which does not often enjoy being petted or preened by digits other than its own) trump an owl's need to be left alone? It shouldn't. You don't get to subject an animal to your whims just because you think it'd be fun. Google why owls shouldn't be made into pets if you're still of the opinion that you should be able to do this. This is just one species that shouldn't be forced into this sort of experience.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:41 AM on February 6, 2014 [24 favorites]

Is there an owl, bird, or wildlife sanctuary near you? The bird sanctuary in my city (literally- it is in the inner city!) books birthday parties (I am sure they have had adults in addition to children) and has, among other things, an owl with one wing that attendees are allowed to interact with. You might know a lot about owls, but the interpreters who work with the birds every day have all kinds of stories and anecdotes to share only gained from working with them daily.

I know you mentioned staying at home but I would really question someone who had an owl they would cart around the city as entertainment, even if they said it was a pet.
posted by variella at 10:43 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I believe owls are illegal to own in NYC.
posted by cazoo at 10:46 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

100% agree with These Birds of a Feather
posted by ATX Peanut at 11:28 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you willing to compromise on the "come to my apartment" bit, especially in light of the illegal-to-own law? Because I wonder if you could approach some sort of animal sanctuary about volunteering for a day and doing it that away.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:37 AM on February 6, 2014

Whatever results from this desire, it happening at your apartment is probably pretty low on the list of possibilities.
posted by rhizome at 12:05 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Depending on where in NYC you are, what about going to the Prospect Park or Central Park zoo?

Central Park is such a significant bird refuge that there's got to be some kind of bird sanctuary/nonprofit/advocacy group in the city that can facilitate an appropriate equivalent of your "owl as party clown" idea, possibly in return for a donation or volunteering.

Maybe you could go get your Superb Owl on at a local animal facility and then repair to a nearby bar for the actual party?

If you end up near Prospect Park shoot me a memail, I have Opinions about good bars for birthday parties in that area.
posted by Sara C. at 12:09 PM on February 6, 2014

I am skeptical they would permit an hour of skritching, but Eyes on Owls will travel to New York with owls for educational programs.
posted by heliotrope at 12:20 PM on February 6, 2014

Even if you could find someone with an owl who was prepared to allow you near it, the owl itself will probably not agree to the skritching. I've had a lot of birds (cockatoos mostly) and they tend to take umbrage to being handled by anyone other than their people. Patting a bird of prey is a great way of losing a finger, after all, their beaks are made for tearing flesh. I can think of other ways to celebrate your birthday than a trip to the ER and a giant medical bill for you or your guests. There is a reason they call them wild animals...
posted by Jubey at 5:05 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know if they'd let you pet any birds (probably not?), but there are a few "raptor fest" events in New York state. The closest would undoubtedly be the Prospect Park Raptor Fest but that one looks like it happens in the fall. There's one upstate in Fort Edward in March, though. In any case, maybe the organizations behind these events might have some leads on the feasibility of owl skritching house calls?

I googled for those kinds of events because this video (the gold standard in owl skritching, imho) took place at a raptor fest in Italy.
posted by mhum at 5:52 PM on February 6, 2014

I have volunteered at a bird sanctuary before, and I have held a very grumpy screech owl with foot problems because we had to test out a new hut which had a better landing spot for his feet. We had to cycle through two other people attempting to get him away from his old hut before he very begrudgingly stepped onto my hand and then he was on my pointer finger for about three minutes. Also, it is surprisingly tiring to hold your arm up perpendicularly from your body in a very still fashion while having a displeased and injured-foot owl with very sharp talons on the end of your finger for three minutes.

A person could maybe have attempted to stroke him once (I did not) and the surprise factor might've made it "successful" in that they'd probably still be whole but I do not think he would have enjoyed even that one freebie and thereafter I'm pretty sure he'd threaten to or actually bite or fly away. He angrily fluffed, wobbled, and looked longingly at a distant perch just while sitting unmolested on the end of my outstretched arm. And you don't want him to bite or fly away not just because it'd be inconvenient for you but because both are dangerous for the bird.

I do think with enough passion for this project and the right planning/requesting/donation you could also set up the possibility of having an annoyed owl on your outstretched hand/finger for a couple minutes, though whether or not at the crucial moment the owl will actually deign to step onto your hand will still probably not be 100% guaranteed. I cannot imagine the owl that would let a group of 5-10 strangers huddle around/over it and scritch it for 5 minutes, let alone an hour (!!). I would think it would need to be drugged/near death for that to happen.
posted by vegartanipla at 5:56 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have worked at an organization doing raptor programs and care. This is not going to happen. Sorry.

There are a ton of legal restrictions on who can have an owl and why. Any legally kept raptor will have been born wild and is for all purposes a wild animal. Any half decent organization is going to have a lot of restrictions on your contact with the bird, for its safety and yours. They are super easily stressed by movement, crowds, and noises.

I worked regularly with the owls and I never petted them even lightly on the back. It would have stressed them out like crazy. I can't imagine an organization letting you skritch them. Ditto for holding it on a glove. If you find someone who will let you do this, they are not acting in the bird's best interest.

Similarly, we never kept the owls out in public for more than 15 minutes max. Stressed them out too much.

We did transport the owls to and from educational programs (each had their own carrying case which had a perch for them in it) and while they probably didn't love the experience it was possible.

While we did education programs at schools and community centers and the like, I doubt that going to a non public place would have happened. However, we did do birthday parties at our education center. This is a pretty common practice at environmental education centers and zoos, and probably the closest you're going to get.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:44 PM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

I know, I know - you don't want to travel. Consider going to Mendham, NJ to the Raptor Trust.
posted by plinth at 7:11 PM on February 6, 2014

Outragehisss...Pets does in-home parties with various animals in NY and NJ. I'm not sure how up-to-date the animal list is, but they might be worth calling. Even if you don't get to skritch an owl they might have other cool animals for you to pet.

(and if you do wind up booking them, let us know how that goes because I reallyreallyreally want an animal show for my birthday too!)
posted by Fuego at 11:07 AM on February 7, 2014

Owls are awesome and I'd love the chance to pet one but these comments are making it sound like it's probably not gonna happen for you anytime soon.

I humbly suggest you find a less scary bird to skritch. I know its nowhere near as exotic but.... some chickens are bizarre looking AND like being petted. And it would be a hell of a lot easier to find one since backyard chickens are so popular in NYC lately. I would love a bday party that had a couple cute fluffy chickens to pet!
posted by silverstatue at 8:02 PM on February 7, 2014

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