A Visit with Galileo the Short-eared Owl at HawkWatch International

/, Salt Lake County, Short-eared Owls, Utah/A Visit with Galileo the Short-eared Owl at HawkWatch International

Galileo the Short-eared Owl in his mewGalileo the Short-eared Owl in his mew – Nikon D810, handheld, f6.3, 1/40, ISO 2000, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 75mm, natural light

The weather was gray, wet and nasty yesterday and not great for photographing birds in the field so Ron Dudley and me went to HawkWatch International to see Galileo, the Short-eared Owl, whom we helped to rescue on June 19th of 2016. My regulars reader may recall that Galileo was hung up on a barbed wire fence in northern Utah when we found him and we removed him from the fence and drove him to Mike Shaw at HawkWatch International, he was then transferred to Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah (WRCNU) to recover and recuperate from his injuries.

The image above shows Galileo in his mew at HawkWatch International in Salt Lake City.

Nikki Wayment with Galileo the Short-eared Owl in his mewNikki Wayment with Galileo the Short-eared Owl in his mew – Nikon D810, handheld, f8, 1/40, ISO 2000, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 18mm, natural light

Through a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Galileo (then known as Burrito) was transferred to HawkWatch International in November of 2016 and they named him Galileo after Galileo Galilei, a well known Italian polymath: astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician who played a major role in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. I think the name is perfect for this Short-eared Owl.

I love this photo of Nikki and Galileo in his mew, Nikki’s smile reflected my own because I was so overjoyed to see Galileo again and to see him healthy too. The last time I held Galileo he was in my lap wrapped up in a towel and at the time I was concerned that he might not even live because of his injuries.

Close up of Galileo - HawkWatch International's newest education birdClose up of Galileo – HawkWatch International’s newest education bird – Nikon D810, handheld, f8, 1/80, ISO 800, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 200mm, natural light

The light was horrible yesterday so I used my Nikon D810 because it handles low light situations like they are a breeze and I had a much shorter lens on it than my normal “bird gear”, my Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens. I’m definitely not used to being this close to birds so I was delighted and took lots of images of him.

Galileo does have trouble flying because of the damage that was done to his wing by the barbed wire fence. He is also still missing his tail feathers that most likely fell out due to stress of being handled during his rehabilitation and recovery but he should have those tail feathers grow back in with his next molt.

Galileo the Short-eared Owl outsideGalileo the Short-eared Owl outside – Nikon D810, handheld, f8, 1/50, ISO 800, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 200mm, natural light

Inside the mew Galileo made several sounds, a bit of hissing and barking, outside of his mew he was quiet and looked around often from where he perched on Nikki’s gloved hand.

Do birds get any more handsome than he is? Okay, I am showing a bit of bias now and I will try to contain it, but I am so fond of this owl and I am happy I played a small part in his rescue.

Galileo outside of his mewGalileo outside of his mew – Nikon D810, handheld, f8, 1/100, ISO 800, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 200mm, natural light

Galileo will be an education bird at HawkWatch International and he will help show people, young and old, in class rooms and community centers the importance of having owls and other raptors in our environment. I think he is going to be a great ambassador.

I mean, who can resist those big, yellow, beautiful eyes? I can’t.

Portrait of Galileo the Short-eared OwlPortrait of Galileo the Short-eared Owl – Nikon D810, handheld, f8, 1/125, ISO 800, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 200mm, natural light

Nikki was so very informative about Galileo and the other education birds at HawkWatch and she is also a great ambassador for birds of prey, everyone is at HawkWatch.

Galileo on Nikki's gloved handGalileo on Nikki’s gloved hand – Nikon D810, handheld, f8, 1/160, ISO 800, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 62mm, natural light

While it is true that I had hoped that Galileo would have been rehabbed and then released and that I was disappointed when he couldn’t be I couldn’t be any happier that he will live at HawkWatch International and will teach many people about the value and importance of birds of prey.

Both Ron and myself had a wonderful time visiting with Galileo and Nikki yesterday.

Life is good.



  1. Mary Jo Adams January 13, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    I LOVE your images as much as I love this owl!!!! You are an owl Super Hero 🙂

  2. Humming bird lover January 13, 2017 at 10:45 am

    HI Honey! He is so beautiful! Thank you for Telling how that sweet little Owl is doing! Great photo’s! Love mom

  3. April Olson January 13, 2017 at 12:07 am

    He has turned into a very hansom bird. Thanks for being there at the right time and cutting that damn wire.

  4. Elephant's Child January 12, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    A huge thank you to everyone who gave Galileo a future which looked to have been cruelly cut short.

  5. Kathryn Duchene January 12, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Oh, so beautiful! Thank you for these photos and update.

  6. Utahbooklover January 12, 2017 at 11:29 am

    Wonderful images and story of survival, with your help.
    Galileo is a name that is so much better than Burrito!

  7. Patty Chadwick January 12, 2017 at 9:28 am

    What a wonderful series!!! You must feel so darned happy and privileged to be part of saving this incredible little owl!!! Hw has such a beautiful, essence of owl, expressive face…I was surprised to see how small these owls really are. While grateful he can fly at all, and glad he’s even alive, how I wish he could someday fly free again!!!

  8. Ilze Long January 12, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Thank you for the update on Burrito aka Galileo. Happy that he survived. Wonderful pics as always.

  9. Liz Cormack January 12, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Thanks for keeping all of us regulars updated on Galileo’s progress. What a beautiful bird. I didn’t realize how small they are. Gorgeous.

  10. Nicole Haller-Wilson January 12, 2017 at 8:35 am

    What a beauty!! The photos are incredible! Thank you for sharing! I think I have to add hawkwatch to my list of donations…

  11. Bob McPherson January 12, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Quite gorgeous images, Mia. Galileo is a handsome fella.

  12. Randal Sokolik January 12, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Great captures- Love the owls

  13. Colleen Crank January 12, 2017 at 7:29 am

    I love it! And I don’t think you’re biased at all; he IS adorable. 😉

  14. Kim January 12, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Those images are GORGEOUS! You have such a talent! Thanks for sharing your love of birds!

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