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.
O'Brien's story of her profound friendship with a barn owl is
strange, exciting, lovely and important. A much-needed corrective to our
sanitized, human-centric view of animals as machines or as pets that can be
trained to perform stupid tricks, Wesley the Owl reasserts the powerful
and sometimes icky otherworldliness and breathtaking complexity of nature.
Prepare to be enlightened, disgusted, delighted and humbled. (Reviewed by Jo Perry).
Starred Review. This memoir will captivate animal lovers.
Don Kroodsma, author of The Singing Life of Birds: An Intimate Guide to the Private Lives of Birds: How, When, Why, and Where Birds Sing, Professor Emeritus at the University of Massechusetts, Amherst.
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.
Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado; author of The Emotional Lives of Animals, Animals Matter, and Wild Justice: Reflections on Empathy, Fair Play, and Morality in Animals
A heart-wrenching and heart-felt story of the deep, reciprocal, and enduring emotional bonds that developed between Stacey O'Brien and her long time friend. It's an inspiring example of how animals are able to reveal to us who they really are and who we really are when we allow them to express themselves openly and safely. Profoundly passionate and personal, this remarkable book shows how we can all increase our compassion footprint in a human-dominated world. Read it and share widely. I sure will.
Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig
I love Wesley the Owl! 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.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Linda Freedman wesley the owl This was a very interesting book and I loved the owl. I felt like he was right next to me as I was reading this book. I could relate to Stacey as we have a talking Mynah bird as a pet. He learns a lot from us and is teaching us new things every... Read More
Rated of 5
by Sharon A book not to be forgotten This book engulfed me. I laughed, I cried, and I would talk about it to everyone I encountered for weeks afterwards. Over a year later, I made it my book club selection as I found the book so memorable and refreshing from the numerous others I... Read More
Rated of 5
by Joni I loved Wesley the Owl! I read this book in two days and found it so refreshing. Although you will learn a great deal about barn owls by reading it, the book is not just for animal lovers. I think the book addresses the joys and hardships of life and how love will get... Read More
Rated of 5
by T Botkin Bird Love or Love Bird As a bird enthusiast and owner, I fell in love with the book. I will purchase as many copies as I have friends and family. I know that they will laugh out loud as I did especially because I have a Love bird that has endured numerous incidents... Read More
Rated of 5
by Casha Goodwin Not Just for the Bird Lover This is a unique, remarkable and well told story. I am an animal lover however never developed an affinity for birds. This book touched my heart and soul. I immediately went out and bought a bird feeder when I finished the book! A great read.
Rated of 5
by Darlene Berry Lauth if you have a bird, you must read this book! I have always loved birds and own three at present. However, this book is priceless because the author is a scientist. She is excruciatingly thorough in describing Wesley, and somehow links it all to life itself and the grand scheme of things. Read... Read More
WildBirds.com website offers the following advice if you come across an
If you find an injured bird, make sure it is really injured before you act.
Often the bird is simply stunned. It may fly away in a few minutes if you leave
it alone. Birds often become stunned by flying into glass windows.
If the bird has a broken wing or other serious injury, contact your local
wildlife rehabilitation center. Be VERY careful around Hawks and Owls. Their
sharp claws and beaks can do a lot of damage! Do not handle them yourself. Do
not give an injured bird food or water. Keep children and pets away from the
To transport the bird . . . place the injured bird in a box with air holes or in
a paper bag lined with soft tissues.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...