Synopses & Reviews
On Valentine's Day 1985, biologist Stacey O'Brien first met a four-day-old baby barn owl -- a fateful encounter that would turn into an astonishing 19-year saga. With nerve damage in one wing, the owlet's ability to fly was forever compromised, and he had no hope of surviving on his own in the wild. O'Brien, a young assistant in the owl laboratory at Caltech, was immediately smitten, promising to care for the helpless owlet and give him a permanent home. Wesley the Owl is the funny, poignant story of their dramatic two decades together.
With both a tender heart and a scientist's eye, O'Brien studied Wesley's strange habits intensively and first-hand -- and provided a mice-only diet that required her to buy the rodents in bulk (28,000 over the owl's lifetime). As Wesley grew, she snapped photos of him at every stage like any proud parent, recording his life from a helpless ball of fuzz to a playful, clumsy adolescent to a gorgeous, gold-and-white, macho adult owl with a heart-shaped face and an outsize personality that belied his 18-inch stature. Stacey and Wesley's bond deepened as she discovered Wesley's individual personality, subtle emotions, and playful nature that could also turn fiercely loyal and protective -- though she could have done without Wesley's driving away her would-be human suitors!
O'Brien also brings us inside the prestigious research community, a kind of scientific Hogwarts where resident owls sometimes flew freely from office to office and eccentric, brilliant scientists were extraordinarily committed to studying and helping animals; all of them were changed by the animal they loved. As O'Brien gets close to Wesley, she makes important discoveries about owl behavior, intelligence, and communication, coining the term "The Way of the Owl" to describe his inclinations: he did not tolerate lies, held her to her promises, and provided unconditional love, though he was not beyond an occasional sulk. When O'Brien develops her own life-threatening illness, the biologist who saved the life of a helpless baby bird is herself rescued from death by the insistent love and courage of this wild animal.
Enhanced by wonderful photos, Wesley the Owl is a thoroughly engaging, heartwarming, often funny story of a complex, emotional, non-human being capable of reason, play, and, most important, love and loyalty. It is sure to be cherished by animal lovers everywhere.
"Wesley will make you wonder if owls are not at least as wise as humans and as capable of compassion. andlt;iandgt;Wesley the Owlandlt;/iandgt; will stretch your notions about the limits of interspecies communication and love. It will entertain, delight and, finally, cause you to weep. Guaranteed." -- Sam Keen, author of andlt;iandgt;Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters With Ordinary Birdsandlt;/iandgt;
"This fun book reminded me of andlt;iandgt;Marley and Meandlt;/iandgt;, but with wings. Warm, weird, and wonderful, Wesley the Owl is proof that man's best friend sometimes has feathers." -- Mark Obmascik, author of andlt;iandgt;The Big Yearandlt;/iandgt;
"Most 'me and my bird' stories are mildly entertaining at best, butandlt;iandgt; Wesley the Owlandlt;/iandgt; is a different animal altogether. Stacey O'Brien got to know this owl with a unique combination of deep scientific understanding and rare emotional intensity, and the result is stunning, unforgettable. Read this book and you will never see owls, or humans, in the same light again." -- Kenn Kaufman, author of andlt;iandgt;Kingbird Highwayandlt;/iandgt; and andlt;iandgt;Flights Against the Sunsetandlt;/iandgt;
"[S]weet, quirky memoir....[T]his little guy's such a character." -- USA Today
"Stacey O'Brien tells the intriguing story of how her life was changed and rearranged when she attempted to tame and raise Wesley -- a barn owl. She shows us how she was ultimately repaid with his love and devotion, and given glimpses into the mind of an animal that has an unexpected ability to understand human language and to communicate. Fascinating!" -- Stanley Coren, psychologist and author of andlt;iandgt;How Dogs Thinkandlt;/iandgt; and andlt;iandgt;Why Does My Dog Act That Way?andlt;/iandgt;
"I love andlt;iandgt;Wesley the Owlandlt;/iandgt;! Not since Konrad Lorenz have I read such an honest, vivid, and revealing account of the rich and complex life of an individual bird. Stacey O'Brien has captured the essence of the soul of an unforgettable owl. Affectionate, quirky, joyous, and wise, Wesley shows us the Way of the Owl -- the way to God and grace. This book is destined to become a classic, and will deepen importantly the way we understand birds." -- Sy Montgomery, author of andlt;iandgt;The Good Good Pigandlt;/iandgt;
"andlt;iandgt;Wesley the Owlandlt;/iandgt; is beautiful, funny, transcendental, fascinating, and powerful. I loved this book!" -- Lynne Cox, author of andlt;iandgt;Graysonandlt;/iandgt; and andlt;iandgt;Swimming to Antarcticaandlt;/iandgt;
"This compelling story sheds a bright, shining light into the world of animal emotions and the powerful bonds forged between animals and humans. A heartfelt journey of life and love with one of nature's wild creatures, andlt;iandgt;Wesley the Owlandlt;/iandgt; is a must-read story of faith, compassion, and selfless devotion." -- Jay Kopelman, author of andlt;iandgt;From Baghdad,andlt;/iandgt; andlt;iandgt;With Loveandlt;/iandgt; and andlt;iandgt;From Baghdad to Americaandlt;/iandgt;
"An inside look at the mind of an owl. If you are interested in animal intelligence, you should read this book." -- Temple Grandin, author of andlt;iandgt;Animals in Translationandlt;/iandgt;
"The best of love stories between two intelligent beings, told (by the human) with good humor and remarkable insights into the mind of an owl -- I couldn't put it down." -- Donald Kroodsma, Ph.D., professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of andlt;iandgt;The Singing Life of Birdsandlt;/iandgt;
"[S]weet, quirky memoir....[T]his little guy's such a character." -- andlt;iandgt;USA Todayandlt;/iandgt;
With heartwarming sentiment, biologist and owl expert O'Brien chronicles her rescue of an adorable, abandoned, baby barn owl--and their astonishing and unprecedented 19-year life together. Photos.
This New York Times
bestselling "sweet, quirky memoir" (USA TODAY
) tells the "heartwarming story" (Publishers Weekly
) of a biologist and the owl she rescued and raised.
A book of unforgettable emotional resonance, Wesley the Owl took the book world by storm, with a 4-star review in People and a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Stacey O'Brien's pioneering work about the emotional lives of owls is nothing less than enthralling.
When adopted, Wesley could not have survived in the wild. O'Brien watches him turn into a voracious carnivore (eating up to six mice a day), an avid communicator with whom she develops a language all their own, and eventually, a robust adult who preens in the mirror and objects to visits by any other males to "his" house. She makes important discoveries along the way, and tells how the playful, reasoning, and loving creature she set out to save ended up saving her.
Charting a unique partnership, Wesley the Owl is for animal lovers everywhere.
On Valentineand#8217;s Day 1985, biologist Stacey Oand#8217;Brien adopted Wesley, a baby barn owl with an injured wing who could not have survived in the wild. Over the next nineteen years, Oand#8217;Brien studied Wesleyand#8217;s strange habits with both a tender heart and a scientistand#8217;s eyeand#8212;and provided a mice-only diet that required her to buy the rodents in bulk (28,000 over the owland#8217;s lifetime). She watched him turn from a helpless fluff ball into an avid comand#173;municator with whom she developed a language all their own. Eventually he became a gorgeous, gold-and-white macho adult with a heart-shaped face who preened in the mirand#173;ror and objected to visits by any other males to and#8220;hisand#8221; house. Oand#8217;Brien also brings us inside Caltechand#8217;s prestigious research community, a kind of scientific Hogwarts where resident owls sometimes flew freely from office to office and eccentric, brilliant scientists were extraordinarily committed to studying and helping animals; all of them were changed by the animals they loved. As Oand#8217;Brien gets close to Wesley, she makes astonishing discoveries about owl behavior, intelligence, and communication, coining the term and#8220;The Way of the Owland#8221; to describe his noble behavior. When Oand#8217;Brien develops her own life-threatening illand#173;ness, the biologist who saved the life of a helpless baby bird is herself rescued from death by the insistent love and courage of this wild animal. andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Enhanced by wonderful photographs, andlt;I andgt;Wesley the Owlandlt;/Iandgt; is a thoroughly engaging, heartand#173;warming, often funny story of a complex, emotional, non-human being capable of reason, play, and, most important, love and loyalty. Translated into eight languages and named an andlt;I andgt;Audubon Magazineandlt;/Iandgt; Editorand#8217;s Choice, andlt;I andgt;Wesley the Owlandlt;/Iandgt; is sure to be cherished by animal lovers everywhere.
About the Author
Stacey O'Brien is trained as a biologist specializing in wild-animal behavior. She graduated from Occidental College with a BS in biology and continued her education at Caltech. Stacey now works as a wildlife rescuer and rehabilitation expert with a variety of local animals, including the endangered brown pelican, owls, seabirds, possums, and songbirds. She lives in Southern California.
Table of Contents
1 The Way of the Owl
2 To That Which You Tame, You Owe Your Life
3 Owl Infancy
4 Barn Owl Toddler: Love Me, Love My Owl
5 Flying Lessons
6 Attack Kitten on Wings
7 Love to Eat Them Mousies
8 Understanding Each Other: Sound and Body Language
9 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
10 A Day in the Life of a Biologist
11 Owls Are Not Waterbirds
12 Deep Bonds
13 The Sex Tapes
14 Fifteen Years of Trust
15 Twilight: He Whom I Tamed Saves My Life
16 The End