Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cosmic Timing

So here's a funny story about people and birds.

For the last 10 years, the Center has had a great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) known as 2051.  This pertains to the place in which the bird was admitted into our medical facility (this one was the 2051 of nearly 5000).  Since there is little difference between the males and females in most raptors, determining sex can be a challenge.  Females are larger than males in most cases (reverse sexual size dimorphism) and obviously females lay eggs, but other than that there is no consistent external difference.

So, earlier this week, an argument blossomed between the education staff.  To be honest, it was me against them.  They argued that the bird was a female.  I argued male.  Their argument was supported by size.  My argument was supported by the fact that the bird had made "nest scrapes" in the corners of its enclosure, a job typically reserved for the males.  I was pretty sure I was right.  I am sure you can see where this might be heading.

So, at dinner (some cosmic pizza at Mellow Mushroom) prior to our monthly volunteer staff meeting, things escalated to include members of our clinic staff.  It was suggested that we all chip in to have a blood test done to settle the disagreement.  You see, the test costs $25 and if we don't "need to know" we usually don't waste the money.  I was ready to throw $10 in and I was sure I would win.  Even though we all agreed that more gambling at work would be a good thing, dinner ended without a handshake or even a verbal "you're on."

Fast forward 18 hours to yesterday afternoon.

Monty: "Stephen are you receiving?"
Stephen: "Go ahead."
Monty: "How much was the bet about whether the owl was a male?"
Stephen: " Let me guess, there's an egg."
Monty: " Yup."

While there is still some suspicion that the egg might have been carefully placed in one of the nest scrapes by someone looking to make me look the fool, I am left to eat my words.  There is not much more definitive proof of sex than an egg.

I guess she figured she would have to make her own nest scrape if no lousy male was going to do it for her.


  1. Don't forgot there was an easier way. I'm guessing she didn't approve. We know who's boss.

  2. I confess...I laid the egg Thursday night and snuck it into the enclosure.

    Ha! I am LOVING this. But to be fair, you were working based on behavior.

    Thanks for blogging!