“He really was an enchanting person. In some way he was like the spiritual father of everybody…. It is hard to imagine Central Park without Charles Kennedy.” Marie Winn, author of Red-tails in Love, and close friend of Charles, remembering him after his death in October 2004

Friday, October 7, 2011

Owl Eyes: An Amazing Tale

     In the newly-published Owls of Central Park, Charles tells an entrancing tale of a saw-whet owl in desperate straits. Charles found the tiny owl struggling mightily to expel a pellet from its gullet. In the midst of the struggle the bird crosses its eyes, something many experts believe is not possible for an owl, or at least not at all common.

                                                      Photo by Charles F. Kennedy
     I claim the third photo to be the first picture ever taken of a Saw-whet with its eyes crossed.  Is that true?   I have no idea, but I did show it to my optometrist.  She said she’d never seen a bird with this problem before.  “It crossed its eyes for close focus.  No correction is needed.”           
     So why the big deal about an owl with his eyes crossed?  Because the literature consistently says that owl eyes are immobile.  In fact, that’s Roger Tory Peterson’s word for them: “immobile.”
     Lewis Walker in “The Book of Owls” says “their eyeballs are fixed—like headlights on a car.” 
     Paul Johnsgard in “North American Owls”: “The eyes of owls are so large that they are immobile in their sockets.”
     Joel Welty in “The Life of Birds”: “Owls, unable to focus their eyes on close objects, must back away.”
     In this case, our Saw-whet could not back away, as the owl was quite attached to its pellet.  What’s an owl to do but defy the literature and cross its eyes.

The entire story and photo sequence are truly amazing and entertaining.


billie jo said...

so, I'm thinking ~ you & Charles, two peas in a very perceptive pod. And I'm very glad that you've got the ability, skill and passion to bring his work to life in such an amazing way.

Steve Kennedy said...

Thanks so much, Billie Jo. I love keeping this going.