ONE MAN'S OWL by Bernd Heinrich


Email this review


A first-rate account, in diary form, of a zoologist's three-year relationship with a semi-wild great horned owl. Heinrich, a professor at the U. of Vermont whose Bumblebee Economics (1979) and the autobiographical In A Patch of Fireweed (1984) have earned him a national reputation, was always intrigued by the Great Horned Owl, and when he found a young one in the snow a few winters ago, he decided to study it at home before returning it to the woods when it was capable of fending for itself. His journal of his subsequent three summers teaching ""Bubo"" to survive outdoors at his camp in Maine is less a scientific treatise (though it is that to a pleasant degree) than a record of various intense relationships centering around the owl: relationships between man and owl, wife and owl, man and wife and owl; between pet crows and owl, pet cat and owl, man and wife and crows and cat and owl. Heinrich's scientific aim was to study up close the relationship between his crows and the owl--to learn more about the tendency of some birds to mob, or aggressively irritate, owls--and an appendix provides some interesting conclusions on the topic: but much of the humor and beauty of the book lies in the larger picture of Heinrich's own intense relationship with the owl, which interfered terribly with his social life (the bird attacked all guests), and caused friction with his wife, who ultimately refused to return to Maine. There have been many books on owls (one is published every year, according to Heinrich), but few, if any, have approached the topic in a way that is quite so intellectually, and at the same time so emotionally, satisfying.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1987
Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press