A barn owl, perched on Marcia Wilson, was one of several Bird Park visitors.
By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Reporter
On Sunday, September 22, visitors trekked through Walpole’s Bird Park to see a unique bird show. Husband and wife team Mark and Marcia Wilson, accompanied by a few of their feathered friends, taught their audience all about owls.
Marcia began by performing a perfect imitation of an owl call. “That’s the sound of an owl that lives right here,” she told the audience, then asked them the guess what owl it was. One audience member guessed correctly: a great horned owl.
After reading a book about owls, Marcia and Mark moved on to the main event. At the front of the stage were seven wooden boxes organized from the biggest to the smallest. Turning her back to the audience, Mark loaded an owl onto his arm. Members of the audience gasped when he turned back around and revealed the smallest owl that they had ever seen. It was a northern saw-whet owl. Weighing a total of four ounces, this species is one of the smallest breeds of owl.
As they showed off the tiny raptor, Marcia began to unload the second smallest boxes. The audience was so focused on the tiny saw-whet that they had not noticed Marcia had a screech owl perched on each of her arms. As she traveled around the audience, the two owls began to hoot back and forth at each other. “Now, the screech owls are complaining. Let’s listen,” said Mark. As the audience listened, Mark and Marcia shared some interesting facts about screech owls, including that they can pass on immunity for West Nile virus to their offspring.
The audience was most surprised by the Eurasian eagle owl. In contrast to the other avian guests, the Eurasian eagle owl is the heaviest owl, weighing up to ten pounds. It can have a five-foot wingspan, making it one of the largest of owls. “There really is an owl that says ‘hoot,’” joked Marcia about the sound the species makes, while the owl on her arm observed his audience. As Marcia shared some information about the owl, he made eye contact with a dog across the field. “He’s having a stare-off with the dog,” observed someone in the audience, making everyone laugh.
Children in the audience were very interested in the owls and spent much of the time asking questions. One child asked how they could help owls get houses. “It’s hard to get a good tree cavity for less than 100 thousand these days,” joked Mark. Another asked if all owls are nocturnal. The audience was shocked to learn that snowy owls aren’t, because some of the places they live experience almost constant sunlight. One kid asked if different species of owls get along. “Not usually,” Mark answered. Different sizes of owls are always in danger of killing the smaller ones, so species are typically separated.”
Though members of the audience only had an hour to get to know these magnificent birds, Marcia and Mark managed to spark in them a brand new interest about owls.
As the event was winding down, one girl raised her hand for a question. “I don’t have a question,” she said. “I just want to say that I love owls so much.”
The rest of the audience chuckled, and some individuals even nodded their heads in agreement. They left the show with a new-found respect for these feathered friends.