Mortimer, Pajarito, Samantha, Arguile, and Autumn Meet…

Mortimer, Pajarito, Samantha, Arguile, and Autumn Meet their Adoring Public

(Cherie Rolfe, May 2, 2018)

Troy, MI- The public got a first look at five owls who now call Troy’s Stage Nature Center home during two sold-out sessions of a “Meet the Owls” event on Sunday, April 29.
Interest in the owls has been building since their arrival in February and fundraisers have been underway to build them a secure outdoor shelter and provide for their food and veterinary care. The owls came to the Stage Nature Center from the Organization for Bat Conservation in Pontiac, after it closed unexpectedly.
Attendees had the opportunity to see the owls up close, learn their history, and experience their different personalities that range from calm to vocal to sassy. They also had the opportunity to bid on items in a silent auction and buy T-Shirts that specifically support the building of the owls’ outdoor habitat.
Assistant Naturalist Christina Funk brought out the birds one by one and explained each individual’s unique circumstances. She also shared facts about each of the three species: Eastern Screech, Barred, and Great Horned Owl.
Mortimer, a 6-year-old male Eastern Screech Owl has been in captivity since 2012. Found as a juvenile, an injury rendered him mostly blind in his left eye and, after rehabilitation, he was unable to be released into the wild.
The eye requires regular treatment with a lubricant. And yet, Mortimer appears relaxed on Funk’s arm while moving through the audience.
Rito — whose name is short for “Pajarito” (Spanish for “little bird”) — a second Eastern Screech Owl, was found in 2016 with a shoulder injury. He was not quite as relaxed among the crowd as Mortimer, and flipped his ear tips up. Funk explained that it is a sort of defense mechanism used to appear taller and bigger.
The star of the show was 8-year-old Samantha, a female Barred Owl. In 2010, as an orphaned nestling in Alabama, she suffered injuries to her wing and back, possibly the result of a dog attack. Surgeries left pins in her wings, so she could not fully fly. The most vocal of the bunch, Samantha delighted the audience with her calls.
Samantha has “imprinted” on her human caregivers, and they share a special bond. She is “used to people and will ‘talk’ to people, but not the other owls.” Funk said.
Arguile is a male Barred Owl who, at 7 years old, has lived in captivity since 2011 when he was found in Texas. He suffers from a foot injury that healed in the wild, but “has grown worse with age,” Funk said.
Lastly, the audience met the “Queen of the Jungle,” a sassy Great Horned Owl named Autumn. Although her exact age is unknown, she has been in captivity for 16 years. In 2002, she suffered a broken clavicle. Additionally, West Nile Virus may have affected her nervous system, and she takes medication for arthritis. And yet, she allows her caregivers to hand feed her rats and mice that are purchased frozen and thawed.
To keep providing Arguile and her friends with the food, care and habitat they need is a large financial undertaking. As of April 25, the Stage Nature Center has raised $9,500 of its $25,000 goal. It is also a long-term care commitment, as Screech Owls like Mortimer and Rito can live 10-15 years in captivity.
And so, the fundraising efforts will continue. Due to demand, at least one additional “Meet the Owls” event is being planned; details will be announced in the near future.

The silent auction of owl-related items is open through 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 3 . Stop by the Stage Nature Center at 6685 Coolidge Highway in Troy to view the items and place a bid.
Boy Scout Wyatt Lucas is also working to raise money to build the owls a permanent and secure habitat. He is selling T-Shirts for $15 each. Email Wyatt at to order. He also has bottle drives planned for Saturday, June 2, and Saturday July 7. Bring refundable bottles and cans to 5612 Fawn Ct. in Troy, Mich. (Long Lake/Northfield Parkway.)
Donations may be directly to the Stage Nature Center through the Troy Nature Society, at, designate “owl fund.

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