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3-5 March 2017 Houston, Minnesota USA

HomeHall of Fame

World Owl Hall of Fame

Owl Hall of Fame

The purpose of the World Owl Hall of Fame is to bring public recognition to the owls and humans who have done great things to make this world a better place for owls. Three types of awards are given out each year: the Lady Gray'l Award (for owls), the Champion of Owls Award (for humans), and the Special Achievement Award (for humans).

The Lady Gray'l Award is named for a Great Gray Owl who spent 21 years working with Dr. Robert Nero in Canada touching the lives of untold thousands of people and giving researchers new insights into the life of the Great Gray Owl. This award was established in her honor to recognize other owls that have made significant impacts on the world in multiple fields such as education, research, changing negative cultural attitudes, specific conservation measures, rehabilitation techniques, and/or legislation. (Simply reaching a large number of people through educational programs does not qualify an owl for this award--they must also have demonstrated impact in other fields.)

The Champion of Owls Award is given to humans who have had a broad geographical impact, usually at least continent-wide, on owls in multiple fields such as conservation, science, legislation, education, and/or rehabilitation, usually over a lifetime (20+ years of work with owls).

Starting in 2008, the Special Achievement Award was instituted. This award is for humans who have made a significant contribution to owls through a specific project or for efforts in a specific geographic area. The Special Achievement Awards are sponsored by the Global Owl Project.

Nomination Instructions

  • Anyone may submit a nomination, including self-nominations.
  • Nominations will be held and considered for a period of three years without the need for resubmission.

  • If multiple nominations are received for a single individual, only the strongest nomination will be forwarded to the judges for consideration.

  • When filling out an application it is important to include numerical data as well as a compelling discussion about why the world is a better place for owls because of the individual.

  • Award nominees may reside anywhere in the world.

  • Both living and deceased owls and humans may be nominated.

  • Nomination forms may be downloaded as Microsoft Word documents. Filled out forms may not exceed three pages in length (including the first page of information) with one inch margins and 11 point Arial font. Questions may not be deleted. A separate attachement listing publications may be included for Champion of Owls and Special Achievement Award nominations.

  • E-mail submission of nominations is preferred, but traditional mail is also acceptable.

  • Nominations must be received by Wednesday 31 August 2016 to be considered for the 2017 awards. No late nominations will be accepted.

  • Award winners notified in late September 2016.

  • Award winners made public in January 2017.

  • Awards will be presented 4 March 2017 at the International Festival of Owls banquet in Houston, Minnesota, USA.

  • Photos and a narrative of main accomplishments will be requested for award winners. These will be used for World Owl Hall of Fame promotions, posted on the International Festival of Owls website, and included in a book to be housed at the International Owl Center in Houston, Minnesota, USA.

  • Winners will receive a physical award.

  • Nominations should be directed to:

International Owl Center
PO Box 536
Houston, MN 55943

507-896-OWLS (6957)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Lady Grayl Award Nomination Form.doc

Lady Grayl Award Nomination Form.pdf

Champion of Owls and Special Achievement Nomination Form.doc

Champion of Owls and Special Achievement Nomination Form.pdf

(We will decide which award category is most appropriate for your human nominee.)


Champion of Owls Award
Dr. R. J. Gutierrez, California, USA


For more than 35 years, Dr. R. J. Gutiérrez has been an international leader in the study and conservation of owls.  Over the course of his career he has published more than 120 scientific papers on owls and has obtained millions of dollars in research funding to advance our knowledge of owls.

Dr. Gutiérrez’s long-term research on the Spotted Owl in western North America deepens the world’s understanding of this rapidly declining species, including their demographics, habitat, behavior, biology, and ecology.  Similarities and differences in the Northern, Mexican, and California subspecies of the Spotted Owl are better known due to this extensive body of research. His complex demographic studies of the Spotted Owl led to advances in statistical analysis of data that benefit studies of other owl and wildlife populations.

The rigor of Dr. Gutiérrez’s research on the Spotted Owl provides a reliable foundation for conservation planning, forest management, and species recovery strategies.  He collaborates with federal, state, local, and private entities to advance conservation efforts.  Because the status of the Spotted Owl generates intense public interest, Dr. Gutiérrez is often called upon to share his expertise in public presentations, professional conferences, consultations, and media interviews.  This intense interest has also led him to study conservation conflicts specifically surrounding the Spotted Owl and generally surrounding wildlife problems.  His contributions to research and conservation have been widely recognized with many prestigious awards.

Dr. Gutiérrez is known as an inspiring educator in the field of wildlife biology and conservation.  As a university professor he has mentored more than 40 graduate students; 29 of whom studied owls.  Many of his students have gone on to their own careers in owl conservation and research.

Currently, Dr. Gutiérrez is the Professor and Gordon Gullion Endowed Chair Emeritus, in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota. Although officially “retired”, Dr. Gutiérrez remains actively engaged in research and conservation of the Spotted Owl.


Special Achievement Award
Dr. Jonathan Slaght, Minnesota, USA


In remote forests of the Russian Far East, Dr. Jonathan Slaght studies the largest owl in the world – the secretive and endangered Blakiston’s Fish Owl.  He traces his interest in the fish owl to the year 2000, while he was working in Russia as a Peace Corps volunteer.  Dr. Slaght later completed his PhD at the University of Minnesota, focusing his research on habitat selection patterns, home range size, and population status of the Blakiston’s Fish Owl in Russia. His research significantly expands the world’s understanding of the fish owl and provides a strong foundation for conservation planning. He is widely recognized as a world expert on the Blakiston’s Fish Owl.

Dr. Slaght is a co-founder of the Blakiston’s Fish Owl Project, a collaborative research effort to monitor fish owl territories and conduct proactive conservation measures in Primorye, Russia.  Fluent in Russian, he has developed relationships with Russian scientists, logging companies, and organizations to promote fish owl conservation efforts for more than a decade.  Dr. Slaght has worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society since 2011, where he is now the Russia and Northeast Asia Coordinator. He is involved in research and conservation projects of owls, tigers, and musk deer. He serves as a mentor to Russian graduate students studying owls and other wildlife.

In addition to his research and conservation efforts, Dr. Slaght collaborates with international colleagues to advance knowledge of this rare owl and has authored many publications in the scientific and popular press.  He regularly translates books and articles from Russian to make them available to the broader world.  He has been very active in public education through oral presentations, television appearances, and contributions to popular publications in the U.S., Russia, and Japan.  Dr. Slaght’s online presence in websites and blogs, including a column on Scientific American, brings the Blakiston’s Fish Owl to people around the world…complete with photos and owl calls.


Special Achievement Award
Sumio Yamamoto, Japan


Mr. Sumio Yamamoto traces his fascination with owls to a chance encounter with an owl in the woods of Japan when he was just a child.  This early interest grew into a lifelong journey with owls. He has devoted his adult life to the study and conservation of the rare Blakiston’s Fish Owl in Japan.  

His long-term research into the characteristics, behavior, and natural history of the fish owl contributes greatly to the world’s understanding of this reclusive and endangered owl.  Mr. Yamamoto’s studies of captive rearing, including artificial incubation, raising chicks, and fostering abandoned owls are unique and provide a foundation for fish owl rescue and rehabilitation. “Don”, his rescued fish owl, gives the Japanese people a wonderful opportunity to observe this impressive bird that they are unlikely to encounter in the wild.

Conservation of the fish owl, including habitat improvement and mortality reduction, is the focus of Mr. Yamamoto’s tireless work.  Much of the old growth forest that the fish owl requires, has been lost to logging and development in Japan.  He has successfully developed techniques for artificial nests and supplemental fish ponds to improve the available habitat.  Experimental efforts to reduce nest site disturbances and automobile collision mortality are ongoing.

Mr. Yamamoto collaborates extensively with the government of Japan, the Japanese public, and scientists around the world to preserve and protect the fish owl.  He shares his knowledge and passion for the fish owl in educational programs, interviews, and field trips. His book “Shima-fukuro – The Blakiston’s Fish-Owls” (1999, Hokkaido Shinbun Press, Sapporo, Japan) provides a detailed look at the natural history of this owl.   Mr. Yamamoto is recognized as a world expert on the Blakiston’s Fish Owl and his work contributes to the efforts to save this species.


Lady Gray'l Award
Nemo the Long-eared Owl, Canada

Nemo and Jim DuncanSmall

Nemo worked his entire 10-year career with owl biologist Dr. James Duncan near Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nemo’s main work was as an educator, reaching over 12,000 people from pre-school kids to retirees, new immigrants, Indigenous First Nations, and Hutterite colonies. During these presentations he raised over $50,000 for graduate students and owl conservation efforts, including fundraising events for the Lady Gray’l Fund in honor of this award’s namesake owl. Thousands of his pellets were given to schools to dissect.

Four successive department of conservation ministers met Nemo at various private and public meetings involving conservation programs ranging from citizen science, wildlife rehabilitation, and wildlife habitat conservation. Most recently he helped convince elected officials to revise The Wildlife Act (Manitoba) to ban the roadside feeding of wildlife, including owls.

Nemo passed away in his aviary in 2015 with no signs of stress or trauma and left a large hole in many hearts, especially Jim’s.


Lady Gray'l Award
Dudley the Great Horned Owl, North Carolina

Dudley RussGavittSmall

(c) Russ Gavitt

Dudley spent the first two years of his life as an illegal pet. Since he could not live in the wild after being raised by humans, be began a career as an educator at the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville, North Carolina.

During his 28 year career Dudley educated thousands of people in a wide variety of settings all over the southeastern United States. He visited the state legislature several times and schmoozed with a few governors, but he also visited prison inmates and spent time on stage with Jack Hanna. He was featured on television and in video productions.

Dudley helped raise statewide conservation awareness by presenting at Earth Share North Carolina events including meetings with the Base Commander at Fort Bragg. With Dudley’s assistance, thousands of dollars were raised for conservation.

The impact that Dudley made on the world was apparent when he finally passed at the ripe old age of 30: the Center received condolences from hundreds of individuals.


Champion of Owls Award
Professor Pertti Saurola, Finland

Pertti Saurola Ural Owl Small

Professor Pertti Saurola has dedicated over 50 years of his life (so far) to studying owls. Once he discovered birds as a boy, nothing else mattered much to him. He spent his school days watching the birds outside the window, not paying attention to the teacher.

Because much of Finland’s forests are being overharvested for lumber, much of Pertti’s work has revolved around the hundreds of nest boxes he has constructed and mounted over the years. He has banded roughly 3,000 Ural Owls and 3,000 Tawny Owls, among thousands of other birds. He has known some individual owls for 20 years and learned much about the divorce rate of his long-term study birds.

He developed techniques for capturing both female and male owls without harming them. As the head of the Finnish National Center of Bird Ringing he implemented regulations to prohibit wearing hard helmets when banding Ural Owls, as the owls sometimes hit the bander’s helmets so hard they killed themselves while defending their nests.

As an ecologist and conservationist Pertti has been an invited speaker at many conferences and workshops around the world and his professional activities have taken him to 50+ countries.


Special Achievement Award
Ronald van Harxen and Pascal Stroeken, The Netherlands

RonaldvanHarxenPascalStroekenLittleOwlscRob BuiterSmall

Ronald and Pascal are not professional biologists, but their passion for owls has led them to spend most of their free time over the past several decades working with Little Owls in The Netherlands.

They began their work in the early 1980s, putting up nest boxes, monitoring them, banding the young, and tracking nesting data. In 1997, together with Hein Bloem, they founded Steenuilen Overleg Nederland (STONE, the Dutch Little Owl Working Group). The goal of the organization is to bring together everyone working with Little Owls in The Netherlands to create one central knowledge base for research and protection.

They have published several handbooks and leaflets about research and protection, covering everything that anyone working with Little Owls could need to know: nest box designs and installation instructions, information on habitat improvement, banding information, data summaries, contacts, and more. They have become the go-to people for professional bird conservation and research organizations with which STONE collaborates. They organize the Landelijk Steenuilendag (Dutch Little Owl Day where current research is presented), and co-organize the Landelijke Uilendag (Dutch Owl Day), held every two years in conjunction with the Dutch Barn Owl Working Group and the Dutch Eagle Owl Working Group. Together with these other working groups STONE publishes the annual magazine “Uilen” (Owls).

Ronald and Pascal work with the public. They educate landowners about habitat management, produce a regular e-newsletter, and even published a children’s book. They have gotten more and more people engaged working with Little Owls. There are now several hundred people involved in protecting and doing research on Little Owls, supported by STONE.


Special Achievement Award
Friedhelm Weick, Germany


When it comes to scientific illustrations of owls, Friedhelm Weick’s name easily comes to the top. Most owl biologists own a copy of “Owls, A Guide to the Owls of the World” and/or “Owls of the World” by Claus Koenig and Friedhelm Weick, which summarize and illustrate all the owl species in the world—a very major feat!

Weick has worked as a professional illustrator since 1965, which included creating museum guides, posters, and painting natural landscapes and murals at the Museum for Natural History in Karlsruhe, Germany. He has also illustrated over 120 books, and his work has appeared in most leading wildlife magazines. He has published scientific papers about owls on his own and as a co-author, often illustrating new species or depicting the subtle differences between subspecies. He has also illustrated calendars and a checklist to the order of owls.

“Faszinierende Welt Der Eulen/Fascinating World of Owls” is his latest and one of his greatest works: a bilingual book featuring the rarest and most beautiful owls of the world.


Lady Gray'l Award
Don the Blakiston's Fish Owl, Japan
Sumio Yamamoto

Blakiston’s Fish Owls are arguably the largest owls in the world. They are also endangered, with their largest threat being habitat destruction by humans.

Don was rescued while still in the egg from parents that were unable to hatch their eggs year after year. She is the first Blakiston’s Fish Owl to be successfully hatched in captivity. She was also used as the model for the only conservation book written on her species.

Don (a female) has imprinted on her caregiver, Mr. Sumio Yamamoto, and thus is comfortable around humans. Blakiston’s Fish Owls are exceedingly difficult to see in the wild, and because most visitors are unlikely to see one, Don provides a wonderful opportunity to see one at very close range.

Don works as a conservation ambassador for fish owls and the need to protect old forest habitat for the many multinational visitors who visit Hokkaido, Japan every year. Government officials from the Ministry of the Environment visit Mr. Yamamoto to learn about Blakiston’s Fish Owl conservation and Don provides an opportunity for these officials to observe these impressive owls at close range.

She has been a foster mother and successfully incubated and raised two Blakiston’s Fish Owl chicks, even though she was not raised by her own species. One of these chicks was later released to the wild and successfully bred in 2012.

Don’s 17 year career as a conservation ambassador and research subject make her a worthy recipient of this award.

Champion of Owls Award
Dr. Karel Voous, The Netherlands

The late Dr. Karel H. Voous (1920-2002) was the leading ornithologists in The Netherlands for about 30 years, as well as one of the worlds’ leading ornithologists. One of his qualities was his ability to bridge the gap between amateur and professional bird researchers.

Dr. Voous was among the first professors in The Netherlands to present a series of lectures on nature conservation, plus one series devoted entirely to raptors. His knowledge and enthusiasm attracted many students to the field, to whom he gave lifelong inspiration through his lectures during field trips and bird banding camps, and in the classroom at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) in Amsterdam. His students went on to publish many important papers on owls.

One of the critical issues he addressed was pesticide use at the expense of birds, including owls. He also emphasized that taxonomy should focus on the process of distribution and speciation, rather than just on classification. In his Atlas of European Birds he presented global distribution maps of all species - not yet usual at the time. He also was one of the first to realize that vocalizations could be important in classification of owl species.

Dr. Voous authored over 20 scientific and many more popular publications on owls and was a gifted editor and educator. He is perhaps best remembered for his award-winning Owls of the Northern Hemisphere. Dr. Voous called the latter a “work of love” and it wasn’t just another bird handbook. It included 47 owl species accounts including distribution, climatic zones, geographical variation, voice, circadian rhythm, antagonistic behavior, ecological hierarchy, breeding habitat and breeding, food and feeding habits, movements, geographic limits, and life in man’s world. Not to mention Ad Cameron’s beautiful drawings of all species.

Champion of Owls Award
Dr. Carl Marti, U.S.A.

The late Dr. Carl Marti (1944-2010) developed a passion for owls and raptor ecology from early childhood that continued throughout his life, believing in the connectedness of things and of the large world contained in the small. Dr. Marti wrote: “Any encounter with the Barn Owl, whether by children in a classroom or by a farmer in his barn or by a biologist in the lab or field, is stimulus to know more about the animal.”

“Carl was widely regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on the Barn Owl, having made enormous contributions to our understanding of its ecology," said Sam Zeveloff, chairman of Weber State University’s Department of Zoology. Carl was a member of the Raptor Research Foundation and taught in the Department of Zoology at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, for 28 years. He was one of the first professors to emphasize the importance of student research, inspiring hundreds of students throughout his career. He collaborated with researchers around the world on owl, hawk and other bird studies.

Although Carl authored at least 40 publications on a variety of owl species worldwide, he is best known for his long-term field study of Barn Owls in Utah and in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in Idaho. The article on his 15-year study of Barn Owl food habits was published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology only one month before his death. Carl’s research revealed important life history information about the Barn Owl in North America, providing particular insights about Barn Owl reproduction and feeding ecology.

Special Achievement Award
Marco Mastrorilli, Italy

Marco Mastrorilli believes that research is necessary in order to protect owls, but it is equally important to teach and inspire the general public about owls so people are willing to invest in conservation.

To encourage the general public to appreciate owls, Marco created the Festival dei Gufi (Festival of Owls), now the largest nature festival in Italy. It grew in attendance from 3,000 visitors in 2007 to 25,000 visitors in 2014. Marco also created Notte da Ascoltare (Night to Hear) to help people with sight impairments to learn about owls, taking participants into the field to listen for wild owls.

Marco is the founder of the Gruppo Italiano Civette (Italian Owl Group), an organization focused on scientific research and sharing that knowledge. In 2005 he launched a national census of owl habitats. He has been involved in the recovery and rehabilitation of owls and in 2001 launched a project to install owl nest boxes. He has extensively studied many owl species in Italy.

Over 25 years Marco has written over 14 books, has published over 450 articles, and has written over 40 scientific papers on owls in Italy and abroad. He also wrote a children’s book, Fantastic World of Owls, and has written about the relationship between fairy tales, animals and storytellers.

He participated in the 2010 documentary Uomini e gufe (Man and owls), and developed the iPad app “iOwls” about European owls, which can be downloaded free from the Apple Store. He also runs an all-owl store and has an all-owl YouTube channel called “Gufotube.”

Special Achievement Award
Sam and Bob Fox and Greg Clark, Arizona, U.S.A.

Bob and Samantha (Sam) Fox are the ‘heart’ behind Wild At Heart, a raptor rehabilitation organization in Arizona founded in 1990. They established the first standardized raptor foster-parenting protocol in Arizona that has since been adopted by other rehabilitation organizations in Arizona and other states. Several species of foster owls care for over 100 nestlings each year.

From Wild at Heart’s conception, they have followed a habitat-oriented program by releasing rehabilitated and rescued owls into appropriate and enhanced habitat. Their biggest conservation achievement is their Burrowing Owl relocation programs.

In 1993, Wild At Heart (WAH), began constructing the first artificial underground burrows in Arizona and relocating rehabilitated Burrowing Owls into these new homes. This prototype program was conceived by the Foxes in 1993, and expanded in 2001 with the addition of Greg Clark Wild At Heart’s Habitat Coordinator. Over the years, the Burrowing Owl Project became the largest program ever attempted to rescue Burrowing Owls at risk from development and to relocate them to artificial burrow habitat. Thousands of burrows have been constructed throughout Arizona by Wild At Heart and community volunteers, and hundreds of Burrowing Owls have been trapped and relocated. The Burrowing Owl relocation protocol Wild At Heart developed was so successful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made it a requirement for Burrowing Owl relocation permits in Arizona.

Due to their extensive experience working with owls in captivity, the Arizona Game and Fish Department approached Bob and Sam in 2006 to develop and manage a captive breeding program for the endangered Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl. It was considered challenging to breed in captivity since it only breeds in saguaro cacti. Females select their mates in the wild, but in captivity mates are selected for them by best DNA matches. If not to their liking, the females will kill the “selected” mate. Subsequently Wild At Heart became the first facility to successfully breed this species in captivity with a complicated system of aviaries, flyways, humidity controlled chambers, and remote monitoring.

In addition to their research, rehabilitation, and conservation efforts, their education programs touch the hearts of tens of thousands of people every year, and have included working with television programs and film producers.

2015 Judges

David H. Johnson - Director of the Global Owl Project - Virginia, USA

Johan de Jong - Barn Owl Biologist - The Netherlands

Robert W. Nero & James Duncan - Great Gray Owl Biologists - Manitoba, Canada

Louise Shimmel - Director Cascades Raptor Center - Oregon, USA

Tony Warburton - Honorary President - World Owl Trust - England


2015 Sponsors

International Festival of Owls

Global Owl Project

Bob Kierlin & Mary Burrichter

Tanja Sova



Champion of Owls Award
Dr. Heimo Mikkola - Finland
Heimo Mikkola
©Bob Emmett

Heimo Mikkola, 68, an avid birdwatcher since age 11, retired in 2007 from a lifelong career in the United Nations. At the end of that career he was "Ambassador of Food," the resident representative of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. As head of a diplomatic mission, he led Food and Agriculture Organization activities in countries in Africa and South America. He visited 127 countries during his foreign assignments -- at the same time publishing more than 150 owl papers and books.

The second edition of Mikkola's latest book, "Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide," is just being released. The 528-page book, published by Firefly Books, includes photos, range maps and detailed descriptions of 268 owl species.

The second edition of "Owls of the World" is being released only a year after the first edition, largely because of accelerating advances in owl research. The advances come from DNA testing that is helping scientists differentiate between species and from studies of other aspects of owls' biology, ranges and vocalizations.

"So many new owl species and subspecies were separated very soon after the first edition that we felt it to be important to take a second edition only a year after the first," said Mikkola, adding that even he has seen only half of the species in the book. "One of the main aims of the book is to make people realize how many rare owls there are, and how many of them we can easily lose in the near future if we don't take relevant steps to protect the habitats and reduce climate change."

With the speed at which new owl species are being identified, Mikkola said he expects an eventual third edition of "Owls of the World" will cover at least 275 species. The first edition described 249 species.

Mikkola, who holds a Ph.D. in applied zoology and limnology – the study of inland waters – from the University of Kuopio, Finland, has 40 years experience in fisheries and aquaculture development. He said he realized early on in his career that he couldn't support his family by studying owls, "so I switched my career toward fish and food."

"Luckily I always kept owls as my main hobby instead of golf or something like that," he said. "So when I retired from 'food business,' I had an easy way to go back to my owls."

Mikkola currently lives in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, England, but continues as an adjunct professor of fisheries and aquaculture at the University of Eastern Finland. He recently taught in the National Agriculture University in Kazakhstan, as a visiting professor.

Mikkola notes that owls continue to be feared and reviled in many parts of the world. They're frequently considered omens of bad luck and death. Humans tend to be frightened of powerful eye patterns, he adds, and owls have some of the most conspicuous, compelling eyes in the world.

"It is highly likely that owls were among the first birds to play an important role in the legends and myths of ancient humans, probably because their vocalization in the dead of night caused havoc in the superstitious mind," Mikkola said. "The human-like appearance of owls, combined with their nocturnal habits and haunting vocalizations, continues to invoke fear and superstition among modern people of many different cultures."

A 1990s study found that 39 percent of people in the United Kingdom feared owls, and Mikkola said he frequently hears the calls of tawny owls added to movie soundtracks to suggest evil and supernatural forces.

Among Mikkola's many publications is the 1983 "Owls of Europe," now out of print. An update of that book is on Mikkola's to-do list for his "retirement."

Mikkola channels profits from his books into education and research, financing books and fees for college students and funding research and travel grants in South America for owl researchers with no other funding opportunities. Years ago, he notes, his own college fees and books were financed by his high school biology teacher because Mikkola's family lacked the money.

Special Achievement Award
Dr. Motti Charter – Israel
Dr. Motti Charter
©Amir Ezir

Charter, 36, has been scientific coordinator of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel's barn owl nesting box project since 2007. The national research project, which receives funds from three governmental ministries and a private fund, involves a team of bird banders, naturalists and ornithologists who monitor breeding and other aspects of barn owl biology.

The project promotes using owls instead of poison to control rats and other pests. It has resulted in placement of nearly 3,000 barn owl nesting boxes in seven regions within Israel, says Alan Sieradzki, who nominated Charter for the award.

"Amazingly, this barn owl nesting scheme has transcended Middle Eastern politics and cultures by expanding to Jordan and the Palestinian Authorities with the full support of the governments involved," said Sieradzki, a British naturalist and senior researcher with the Global Owl Project.

Charter will accept the award at the International Festival of Owls awards banquet March 8, 2014, at the Valley High Golf Club, between Houston and Hokah, Minn. He also will speak that morning to the general public.

Charter said, "An important goal of our barn owl project is to raise public awareness about the usefulness of raptors and the benefits that humans can derive from environmentally friendly agricultural practices. In addition, barn owls are the ultimate tool to explain to people that biodiversity is important."

Charter said, "The barn owl population in Israel is one of the highest in the world and since 1983 the owls have been used in Israel as biological pest control agents of rodents. This project is based on the addition of large numbers of barn owl nest-boxes in farmland to create a friendly environment for people and wildlife where pesticide use is decreased."

"Unlike most other nest-box programs in the world, where projects are organized by wildlife organizations, in Israel farmers added 95 percent of the nest boxes for rodent control," Charter said.

The barn owl project has been the subject of media coverage on the Discovery Channel and the BBC in addition to ornithological and local publications.

Israel's small size, Charter notes, means it's difficult to protect animals because they frequently cross borders to other countries. When rodents are killed by poison, predators such as owls are poisoned by eating the dead or dying rodents.

Charter says that even if Israel completely changes the use of pesticides to protect animals within its borders, predators may be poisoned in nearby countries, Charter says. The poisons also end up in local rivers and groundwater.

"It is therefore of high importance for Israel to work with its neighbors to try to reduce pesticide use in other countries also," said Charter, who lives near Nazareth, Israel, and not far from the Palestinian city of Jenin.

"Even though barn owls are accepted by Jewish farmers in Israel, some Arab farmers continue to fear and persecute them," Charter said. "We therefore want to bring Arab minorities and Jewish farmers together in Israel.

Charter says owls may spook people because the birds hunt at night and, due to the design of their feathers, make almost no sound when they fly. Owls are frequently seen as bad omens around the world.

"If we have no owls, which animal will prey on the rodents that eat our crops, infest our villages and homes?" Charter asked. "Owls are keystone predators that can be used as biological indicators of healthy environments.

"When there are owls and the owl populations are healthy, then we should expect that many organisms' population are also OK. When there are no owls, it is a bad sign that many other populations of animals are also affected."

2014 Judges

David H. Johnson - Director of the Global Owl Project - Virginia, USA

Johan de Jong - Barn Owl Biologist - The Netherlands

Robert W. Nero & James Duncan - Great Gray Owl Biologists - Manitoba, Canada

Louise Shimmel - Director Cascades Raptor Center - Oregon, USA

Tony Warburton - Honorary President - World Owl Trust - England


2014 Sponsors

International Festival of Owls

Global Owl Project

Bob Kierlin and Mary Burrichter


Lady Gray'l Award
Bundi the Verreaux's Eagle Owl (with Francis Kithure) - Kenya

A baby owl brought into a teacher’s home in Kenya has received an international owl education group’s award for demonstrating to local people that owls are not really bad omens that deserve to be killed.

Bundi, a Verreaux’s eagle owl, was about three days old when the orphaned nestling and a sibling were brought to Francis Atanasio Kithure, an ornithologist and teacher in Kianjai-Meru, central Kenya, in east Africa. A hunter had killed one of the nestlings’ parents and was preparing to kill the chicks when some of Kithure’s students intervened and rescued the babies.

Kithure’s neighbors warned him that welcoming an evil omen like an owl into his central Kenya home would endanger his family and maybe even bring death, but he used the experience of rehabilitating the owl to introduce local people to a more scientific way of looking at the birds.

The smaller of the two orphaned chicks was transferred to a Kenyan Wildlife Service agency, but Bundi, the larger nestling, stayed with Kithure.

“I chose the word ‘Bundi,’ which is a Swahili name for owl,” Kithure says. “In my local language, Kimeru, it means a constructive person who changes lives and minds of people.”

The award will be presented at the 11th annual International Festival of Owls, slated for March 1-3 in Houston, Minn. Kithure will receive the award for Bundi, who was released into the wild in Kenya after further rehabilitation at a Nairobi animal orphanage.

Bundi stayed with Kithure in March and April 2010. The bird is the winner of the Hall of Fame’s 2013 “Lady Gray’l Award,” given to an owl that has done great things to make the world a better place for owls.

Kithure says fear and distrust of owls are common in central Kenya. He remembers seeing an old man throw owl eggs into a local river, hoping that the water would wash the eggs – and bad luck – downstream and away from his family.

Kithure, a teacher trained in ornithology, works with schools and clubs to raise awareness of wildlife ecology. He recalls primary school students bringing him the two orphaned Verreaux’s eagle owl nestlings.

“Being a naturalist and defender of animal rights, I had to question and disapprove of the widely held beliefs that owls are associated with death and that they are tormentors,” he says. “I had to prove to society that contrary to their beliefs, owls can co-exist with man in the same environment.”

It helped that Bundi was a particularly easy-going owl.

“Many people changed their widely held perceptions on owls when people within the society saw that nothing bad happened to me,” Kithure says. “Some concluded that owls are very friendly birds because at maturity Bundi could fly and come back to my house and was very friendly.”

Verreaux’s eagle owls are endangered in central Kenya, in part because their eggs are used in witchcraft, their habitats have been lost, and some owls are killed by eating small birds that have been poisoned by farmers protecting their crops.

Champion of Owls Award
Dr. Wolfgang Scherzinger - Germany

When Wolfgang Scherzinger was a boy living in the Austrian countryside in the 1960s, he took over the care of a Little Owl whose owner could not keep the bird any longer. "She had bought it at an Italian bird-market," Dr. Scherzinger recalls. "The lady implored me never to feed the owl meat or even a prey animal as the owlet was used to being fed small cubes of cheese – from a golden spoon." The young ornithologist ignored that piece of inappropriate dietary advice and soon had the bird, whose Latin name is Athene noctua, eating its rightful food – a mouse.

"I was absolutely impressed with how quickly and powerfully the tiny owl grabbed its prey and ate it with 'owl-typic' gusto," Dr. Scherzinger says. "I was caught by the big eyes, staring in my direction but focused on infinity, as though looking through my body."

Dr. Scherzinger, 69, is the 2013 winner of the World Owl Hall of Fame's Champion of Owls Award, the top prize to be given at the 11th annual International Festival of Owls, slated for March 1-3 in Houston, Minn. He will receive the award and deliver the keynote address at the festival's awards banquet March 2.

The Champion of Owls Award recognizes people who have had a broad impact on owls in conservation, science, legislation, education, rehabilitation and other fields. The World Owl Hall of Fame is sponsored by the International Festival of Owls, the Global Owl Project, Bob Kierlin and Mary Burrichter, the James and Judy Sloan Foundation, Tanja Sova and Susan and John Eddy.

Dr. Scherzinger served as zoologist in Germany's Bavarian Forest National Park from 1971 to 2007. He completed field research – most of it with birds – and participated in captive breeding programs to reintroduce Eagle Owls (Bubo bubo) Ural Owls (Strix uralensis), river otters and wildcats into the wild. He also co-authored "Die Eulen Europas," one of the best books ever written on the owls of Europe.

His thorough knowledge of owl behavior, vocalizations, and development comes in part from rearing 18 species in captivity and successfully breeding 16 of them. The rest comes from observing at least eight species in the wild in both Europe and China.

Now retired to a village in the Bavarian Alps, Scherzinger advises organizations that manage national parks and wilderness areas, especially in Austria. He's also collecting field data on the rare Sichuan Wood Owl, restricted to a very small area of old growth forest in the high mountains of China.

"People of any social and educational status should open their minds and get at least a glimpse of nature's treasures," Scherzinger says. "Owls represent the rather hidden part of this richness, and whoever gets in contact with these enchanting birds will learn they are unique and exciting – not devils or ominous ghosts. And owls need friends and our support."

Special Achievement Award
Dr. Ana Trejo - Argentina

Owls should be appreciated for their mystery and power as well as their role in protecting human health, says Dr. Ana Trejo, winner of a 2013 Special Achievement Award from the World Owl Hall of Fame in Houston, Minn.

“I think people should be aware of the important role that owls have, mainly as natural controls of mice potentially dangerous to human health,” Dr. Trejo says.

Dr. Trejo’s research and conservation work have contributed to the protection of the species by highlighting owls’ role in the control of rodents, including those responsible for transmission of hantavirus in Patagonia, a forested ecosystem in Argentina and Chile.

Hantavirus, a relatively new virus carried on rodent waste, causes flu-like symptoms in humans and can lead to death.

Dr. Trejo, professor of vertebrate zoology at the University of Comahue in Bariloche, in the Argentine Patagonia, said most people know little about owls because the birds are inconspicuous and nocturnal.

“I have developed many projects to try to bring that awareness to children and people in general,” she said. “My opinion is that much more work has to be done to increase popular knowledge on owls.”

“She has developed research and teaching activities since the late 1980s, focused on raptor research, especially on Patagonia’s owls, such as Concon (Strix rufipes), Magellanic owls (Bubo magellanicus) and Austral-Pygmy owls (Glaucidium nanum),” says Dr. Miguel D. Saggese, who nominated Dr. Trejo for the award. Dr. Saggese teaches veterinary microbiology and avian, exotic and wildlife medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif.

“Another passion of Dr. Trejo is promoting respect, love and care for wildlife in citizens,” Saggese says. “Besides giving talks to diverse audiences, Dr. Trejo has published articles for education and general interest magazines, and she is leading outreach projects to the community. As part of these activities, lately she co-authored a chapter in a nature program on a TV channel for children, focused on owls.”

Dr. Trejo, who completed her dissertation on prey selection of Magellanic owls, has a broad understanding of animal behavior, physiology, ecology and evolutionary relationships. In addition to her scientific publications, she contributed a chapter to the 2004 book “The Raptors of Chile” and a chapter to an upcoming book on neotropical owls.

The professor currently lives in San Carlos de Bariloche in Nahuel Huapi National Park, northwestern Argentine Patagonia. Most recently she is studying songbirds’ and other perching birds’ “mobbing” reactions to Pygmy owl calls. Mobbing occurs when smaller, weaker birds cooperate to drive a predator away from their nests.

Dr. Trejo traces her emergence as a biologist to age 7, when she came nose to beak with a barn owl in her family’s backyard one night.

“My mom called me in for dinner,” she explains. “I began to pick up my doll and then I saw it, a medium-sized owl perched on a tree. My first thought was of fear, but I was very impressed, hypnotized. I remember its big, dark, staring eyes and its pale face and chest, like a ghost! The bird then flew away and its silent flight left me amazed. I think that first impression marked me as a biologist.”

Special Achievement Award
Dr. Lucia Liu Severinghaus - Taiwan

A one-year study of a Taiwan owl species once thought to be nearly extinct led to a 25-year career for Dr. Lucia Liu Severinghaus, 2013 winner of a World Owl Hall of Fame Special Achievement Award.

In 1985, the government of Taiwan asked Dr. Severinghaus to do a one-year study of the Lanyu Scops Owl and make suggestions for its conservation. Lanyu, also known as Orchid Island, is off the coast of Taiwan in the Pacific Ocean.

“Little did I anticipate that that one-year study would lead to a 25-year love affair with owls,” Dr. Severinghaus says. “Each marked bird became recognizable as an individual, and it was fun to look for them in the forest and to recognize them as old friends.”

She discovered many unusual things about the Lanyu Scops Owl: that it breeds in cavities like many owls but often changes cavities and changes mates from year to year.

“There were always aspects about their biology that drove me to do another year of work, in order to find answers,” she says. “Even after 25 years, there are still many aspects of their biology I do not understand, and I hope someday someone else will decide to devote his or her life to further our understanding and care of this species.”

Dr. Severinghaus was a research fellow at Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, from 1983 to 2010.

Originally, Dr. Severinghaus worked in the face of local people’s conviction that the owl was the messenger of the devil. Today, the owl draws tourists to Lanyu.

“I hope the people on Lanyu, who no longer consider owls the messenger of the devil and now value their owls as a unique ecotourism resource, will protect the habitat needed by owls and manage tourism development sustainably,” she says.

In a quarter-century of research, Dr. Severinghaus banded 1,377 of the owls and tracked their survival and activities. She estimated the current population is about 5,000 and not endangered. She also surveyed subspecies of the owl in Japan and the Philippines.

Dr. Severinghaus helped found the Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network, gave many public lectures and TV interviews, and wrote articles for newspapers and magazines to promote conservation and teach people about the Lanyu Scops Owl.

She also produced a film titled “Du-Du Wu: The Story of the Lanyu Scops Owl,” which was picked up by the National Geographic Channel and shown throughout Asia and Taiwan.

Her husband, Sheldon Severinghaus, an ornithologist who studied endangered birds in Asia for many years, nominated her for the special achievement award.

“Lucia broke the cultural mold for Chinese women when she chose to study birds in the wild, especially a nocturnal owl. Not even men did that when she started out. Now many women are in field research,” he says. “And in a culture where owls were feared and avoided, she got the Lanyu Scops Owl listed as a national treasure under Taiwan’s Cultural Properties Preservation Act.”

2013 Judges

David H. Johnson - Director of the Global Owl Project - Virginia, USA

Johan de Jong - Barn Owl Biologist - The Netherlands

Robert W. Nero & James Duncan - Great Gray Owl Biologists - Manitoba, Canada

Louise Shimmel - Director Cascades Raptor Center - Oregon, USA

Tony Warburton - Honorary President - World Owl Trust - England

2013 Sponsors

Global Owl Project

International Festival of Owls

Bob Kierlin and Mary Burrichter

Jim and Judy Sloan Foundation

Tanja Sova

Susan and John Eddy

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about becoming a sponsor


Lady Gray'l Award
Pot Plant Owl the Spotted Eagle Owl
pot plant

In August 2008 in the densely populated metropolis of Johannesburg, South Africa, a Spotted Eagle Owl in search of a nest site settled into a large pot on a balcony. The pot she chose was filled with soil and although she had to share the pot with the small tree growing in it, there was room enough for them both as well as her future family.

Unbeknownst to the owl, she had selected the balcony of wildlife enthusiasts Tracy and Allan Eccles. The owl family was given privacy and Pot Plant Owl, as she was affectionately named, and Pappa, her mate, successfully raised a family of two in that first year. Since then they have returned to the pot to nest year after year. The owls have also accepted the webcam that broadcasts their intimate family life to hundreds of thousands viewers around the world.

Pot Plant Owl's popularity has revealed intimate details of breeding behavior to an adoring public, but this popularity has had an amazing side effect. In 2009 when developers began to remove the trees in the only remaining wetland in the area, Tracy and Allan were able to get the development stopped thanks to a petition with over 27,000 signatures from around the world. Although the decision was appealed by the developers, Pot Plant owl won out and the wetland will not be developed.

In a country where owl superstitions abound and witch doctors make medicines from owls, education is crucial to stop the persecution of owls. Pot Plant Owl's story can touch nearly any heart, so Tracy and Allan are frequently asked to speak at schools, society groups and organizations, and corporate functions to help educate children and adults alike about owl conservation and dispel myths.

Tracy has written an award-winning book about Pot Plant Owl, and proceeds from the book sales are used to support Bird Life South Africa, FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Champion of Owls Award
Denver Holt with a young Snowy Owl
Denver Holt and Snowy

Denver Holt didn't want to be one of those researchers who works in the field while earning his degrees and then sits behind a desk the rest of his career. He was frustrated with "long-term studies" that were only two to three years long. He wanted to be in the field doing decades-long research on owls his whole career. So he founded the Owl Research Institute near Charlo, Montana and has been living his dream for 30 years with no signs of slowing down.

It's impressive enough to say that Denver has studied most of the owl species in North America, including 20 years working with Snowy Owls in the harsh climate of Barrow, Alaska and 25 years working with Long-eared Owls. He has authored dozens of scientific papers about owls. But he would not have received this award if all he did was research.

Along the way Denver realized that research was useless unless the results made their way to the general public…the people with voting power and money to donate to causes. He has a phenomenal talent for sharing his passion and knowledge with people of all ages through educational programs in the field, children's books, as a keynote speaker all over the country, and through various media ranging from National Geographic Explorer and Magazine to Frozen Planet to Life of Birds to the New York Times and Disney.

Thinking outside the box has become an important skill for Denver. While most researchers work from grant to grant, Denver has also cultivated a core of private individuals and foundations to fund the Owl Research Institute's work. Out-of-the-box thinking was also essential to solve the dilemma of Snowy Owls being shot in Alaska. An international treaty allowed this shooting for subsistence purposes by any resident of Alaska. Instead of fighting the problem, Denver worked with Inupiat leaders and asked them to voluntarily stop the shooting of owls on their land. His novel approach has curbed the bulk of the problem.

With their unique appeal to the general public and their position on the food chain as top predators, Denver Holt plans to keep using owls as the face for environmental health issues.

Special Achievement Award
Professor Dr. Michael Wink

The most basic element of studying and conserving owls is knowing which species is which. This may seem like a simple concept, but in reality it can be a very complex affair to sort through closely related owls to discern which are subspecies and which are full species. While all species were originally classified based on their outward characteristics, this job is now done in the lab by analyzing DNA.

Prof. Dr. Michael Wink has analyzed samples of most of the world's owl species, making him the world authority on owl molecular taxonomy and systematics. His work provides a clear framework for future owl conservation and research, since correctly classifying species is of the utmost importance when appealing to governments to save and protect extremely rare species.

Consequences of his research include: Reclassification of the Snowy Owl which is no longer in a genus of its own but has been merged into the genus Bubo as Bubo scandiacus. The former genus Otus has been split into Ptilopsis (Africa), Megascops (New World Screech-Owls), Psiloscops flammeus (North America), while the Old World Scops Owls remain in the genus Otus. Within the genera Tyto, Ninox, Athene, Megascops, Ptilopsis, Bubo and Glaucidium, DNA analysis gave evidence for the existence of new species or for splits.

Special Achievement Award
Carlos and Donna Royal

Molly and McGee became household names when the Associated Press got wind of the Barn Owl cam Carlos and Donna Royal were running in the back yard of their San Marcos, California home in 2010. But that was never how it was intended to be.

Carlos and Donna had set up the webcam with the help of their grandson Austin so their friends and relatives could watch the Barn Owls nest in their yard. They posted the live video stream of the owls they had named "Molly and McGee" to Ustream and before they knew what had happened, 21 million "friends and relatives" from 102 countries had tuned in.

Demand from the viewers was intense. They had questions about Barn Owl biology. Requests for more cameras and different camera angles. School classrooms wanted to talk to them via Skype. Moderators were needed for the chat rooms. Books, CDs, and other merchandise were requested. The Royals rose to the occasion and dedicated their entire lives to the Barn Owl cam, even cancelling a vacation to broadcast a second brood.

International media coverage fueled the fire and more and more people around the globe developed MOD (Molly Obsessive Disorder.) But after the second brood fledged, the Royals decided to take the cameras offline so they could have their lives back.

As Senegalese poet and naturalist Baba Dioum said, "In the end, we will only conserve what we love. We will only love what we understand. We will only understand what we are taught." Thanks to Carlos and Donna, millions of people all over the world love Barn Owls, which is a great thing for conservation.

2012 Judges

David H. Johnson - Director of the Global Owl Project - Virginia, USA

Johan de Jong - Barn Owl Biologist - The Netherlands

Robert W. Nero & James Duncan - Great Gray Owl Biologists - Manitoba, Canada

Louise Shimmel - Director Cascades Raptor Center - Oregon, USA

Tony Warburton - Honorary President - World Owl Trust - England

2012 Sponsors

Global Owl Project

International Festival of Owls

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about becoming a sponsor


Lady Gray'l Award
Barnaby the Barn Owl, England

Barnaby flew into the lives of more than 1.8 million people between 1990 and 2010 flying in the Eagles of Paradise Free Flight Bird Show at Paradise Park in Cornwall, England.

Besides helping to illustrate the silent flight of Barn Owls and their amazing hearing, Barnaby also encouraged people to get involved to help his species in the wild, primarily through the Barn Owl Conservation Network. He also helped train animal care students based at Duchy College in the art of positive reinforcement training and handling and care of raptors.

Together with his fellow members of the Paradise Park free flying bird team, Barnaby helped raise awareness of local and global conservation issues. As a consequence, visitors donated more than £140,000 for bird conservation efforts.

Barnaby died on 21st of June, 2010 and is buried under the Tree of Heaven at the edge of the picnic lawn where he flew free for over 20 years.

Champion of Owls Award
Professor Dr. Claus König, Germany

After 48 dedicated years, Professor Dr. Claus König is still working with his wife and research partner Ingrid on a long-term study of Eurasian Pygmy Owls. These owls were extirpated from the Black Forest in Germany due to deforestation after World War II, and the Königs reestablished a population from birds raised in captivity after the area was reforested.

Professor Dr. Claus König spent much of his career at Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde (Museum of Natural History) in Stuttgart, Germany.He served as the curator of ornithology there for about 30 years, then was named the director, and eventually a professor of bioacoustics and ornithology.

König's deep interest in owls has led him to studies in Europe, Africa, and South America. His years of research coupled with his passion for bioacoustics brought him to the realization that owl vocalizations are inherited, not learned, and are thus an important isolating mechanism for species. As a result of his work he has described several new species of owls.

Another passion of Claus and Ingrid König is making nature documentaries, often featuring owls. Besides making several films for TV, Professor Dr. König has published over 250 scientific papers, written numerous articles for magazines, and written or co-authored several books. He is probably best known to owl biologists around the world for authoring the "bible" on owls, along with his colleagues Friedhelm Weick and Jan-Hendrik Becking: "Owls—A Guide to the Owls of the World" in 1999, as well as the updated and revised second edition "Owls of the World" in 2008.

Special Achievement Award
Raju Acharya, Nepal

Working to protect owls in Nepal is an uphill battle. Until Mr. Acharya started his efforts, there was little data on the species that live in the country or their populations. There is illegal hunting and trading of owls, and they are not necessarily regarded with good will.

In the short three years that Mr. Acharya has been working to protect owls in Nepal, he has truly made a difference. He led a team of 10 volunteers to conduct ground-breaking surveys of the owls of the country and has interviewed hundreds of people around the country about their knowledge and attitudes about owls. He is currently working to ascertain the extent of the hunting and trade in European Eagle Owls in his country.

Spreading knowledge is the key he is using to help owls in Nepal. Mr. Acharya has reached at least four million Nepalese people through radio, television, and newspaper. He has conducted 200 owl conservation awareness programs targeting 5,000 students and other stakeholders and is currently working to produce a field guide to the owls of Nepal.

He is helping to form eco-clubs in schools, works to ban killing of owls by catapult, and is stressing the control of forest fires to conserve their forest habitats. Since agriculture is the backbone of the economy, he also is focusing on how beneficial owls are to agriculture.

2011 Judges

David H. Johnson - Director of the Global Owl Project - Virginia, USA

Johan de Jong - Barn Owl Biologist - The Netherlands

Robert W. Nero & James Duncan - Great Gray Owl Biologists - Manitoba, Canada

Louise Shimmel - Director, Cascades Raptor Center - Oregon, USA

Tony Warburton - Honorary President, World Owl Trust - England

2011 Sponsors

World Owl Trust

Global Owl Project

Tanja Sova

Gray Owl Fund

Festival of Owls

Bob Kierlin & Mary Burrichter

Jim & Judy Sloan


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about becoming a sponsor


Lady Gray'l Award
Alice the Great Horned Owl

One spring day in 1997 a fluffy three-week old owlet tumbled from her nest high in a pine tree in Antigo, Wisconsin. Her resulting wing injury was a mixed blessing, leaving her unable to ever live in the wild but destined for a cushy life in captivity.

Alice the Great Horned Owl found permanent employment at the small Houston Nature Center in Houston, Minnesota. She commutes to work as most humans do, residing in the home of her handler, Nature Center Director Karla (Kinstler) Bloem. Due to the timing of her injury, Alice grew up thinking she is a human so she considers Karla to be her mate.

"I really had no idea what I was getting into," Karla chuckles, referring to the day she picked Alice up from the Raptor Education Group, Inc. in Antigo.

Alice has opened a window between humans and her kind thanks to this close bond. She is the leading subject in the first vocal study on her species. She is also the owl behind the 2005 law change to protect Great Horned Owls in Minnesota. The International Festival of Owls, which attracts roughly 1,000 people annually from around the world, had its humble beginnings simply as a "hatch-day" party for Alice. Due to the success of the Festival, plans are currently underway to create a North American Owl Center in Alice's hometown of Houston, MN.

Somewhere along the way Karla realized that Alice was a very special owl. Through her Owl Festival contacts she began hearing of other owls who were special individuals just like Alice, who with their human handlers were doing great things for owl-kind. This realization, based on Alice, sparked the genesis of the World Owl Hall of Fame, so it's only fitting for Alice to enter the Hall of Fame by winning the Lady Gray'l Award.

Champion of Owls Award
David H. Johnson

On a moonlit night in 1967, an Eastern Screech-Owl landed on the pup tent of a young boy camping along the Blue Earth River in southern Minnesota. The boy sat motionless and spellbound, watching the vibrating throat of the owl's silhouette through his tent as it trilled and whinnied. The owl conservationist in David H. Johnson was born.

Since that fateful night nearly half of North America's 19 species of owls have found themselves the subject of David's research. Most notably he shouldered the role of being the first Spotted Owl Coordinator for the state of Oregon. This led him into the expert witness seat in the courtroom no less than six times during the hotbed of the Spotted Owl /logging controversy of the 1990s. He was rewarded with several commendations, including a Special Commendation from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, the highest civil service award given to non-Interior Department employees.

Thinking big comes naturally to David, so in 2002 he founded the Global Owl Project and has served as its Director ever since from his home in Alexandria, Virginia. The Global Owl Project is a team of 450+ researchers from around the world working together to conserve the planet's owls. Current research endeavors include survey techniques, genetics, vocalizations, morphology, distribution, and human cultural biases toward owls.

Those cultural biases hold a special allure for David. He is planning to work with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to develop a "Spirit Wings – Owls in Lore and Culture" traveling exhibit intended to reach millions of people around the globe.

David will most certainly keep his finger in the world's owl pie until his spirit flies off to meet the great owl in the sky, which we hope will be in the far distant future.

Special Achievement Award
Colin Shawyer

Colin Shawyer's life with owls had its inception over 30 years ago, as he watched the once familiar Barn Owl disappear from his childhood haunts in Britain. Spurred by a call to action by 2007 World Owl Hall of Fame Champion of Owls award winner Tony Warburton, Colin undertook a survey to determine the extent of the species' decline.

Six years later the results of Colin's work were in: the Barn Owl had suffered a shocking decline of 70% in its population between 1932 and 1985 in Britain and Ireland, leaving the species vulnerable to extinction. A nationwide effort was needed to save the species.

In 1988 Colin founded the Barn Owl Conservation Network, a nationwide team of Barn Owl enthusiasts across the UK, which he still coordinates to this day. In partnership with others, the Network has proudly achieved its goal of a viable and healthy Barn Owl population through habitat restoration and nest box erection.

Besides Barn Owls, Colin delves into research and conservation efforts on behalf of several other species including Long-eared Owls, Little Owls, and Tawny Owls. He also supervises and supports PhD students and has authored several books.

2010 Judges

Johan de Jong - Barn Owl Biologist - The Netherlands

Robert W. Nero - Great Gray Owl Biologist - Manitoba, Canada

Louise Shimmel - Director, Cascades Raptor Center - Oregon, USA

Tony Warburton - Honorary President, World Owl Trust - England

2010 Sponsors

World Owl Trust

Global Owl Project

Raptor Education Group

Gray Owl Fund


Festival of Owls

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about becoming a sponsor


Lady Gray'l Award
Georgie the Barn Owl

Ambassador for the World Owl Trust's owl conservation efforts, Georgie the Barn Owl was an undoubted star. He flew in the Trust's "Meet The Birds" programs on the Muncaster Castle lawn in England for over a million people between 1990 and his passing in 2003 at age 13.

After capturing the audience's attention with his beauty and quirky character, the portal was opened to educate them about the precipitous decline of his species in the UK and the Trust's efforts to help endangered owls in the UK and around the globe. He also appeared at hundreds of lectures and television appearances with his human, Trust founder and 2007 Champion of Owls award winner Tony Warburton.

Georgie's fame and beauty culminated in his face adorning Britain's first postage stamp of the new Millennium. Everyone fell under the spell of his presence and when in London for the presentation of an award to Muncaster Castle, Georgie stole the show even in the company of some of the Harry Potter cast!

The close relationship between Georgie and Tony allowed the study of the aging process, housing, nest box and dietary preferences, reaction to various drugs, and many other aspects of Barn Owl biology which have been very helpful in the Trust's rehabilitation work.

"Georgie really was a very special bird and everyone loved him, especially me," said Tony Warburton in Georgie's obituary. "It's as if someone has turned out a bright light, and things will never be quite the same without him. One thing is for certain, he'll never be forgotten." Especially now, since his work will be remembered in the World Owl Hall of Fame, as he so well deserves.

Champion of Owls Award
Dr. James R. Duncan

By far the youngest Champion of Owls Award winner to date is Dr. James R. Duncan of Winnipeg, Canada. Even though his hair has yet to turn white, he has still made an impressive mark on the world of owls.

Jim is an authority on Great Gray Owls, having studied them since 1984, and he has also been involved in studies on 11 other species of owls. He has served on the graduate committees of seven students studying owls and helped organize three international owl conferences. How's that for a start to his resume!

He also knows how to inspire and involve others in owl research. Together with his wife Patsy, he developed and coordinates the Manitoba nocturnal owl surveys which have involved over 600 volunteers since 1991. "Other people pick up on his spirit…he's an inspiration," says Dr. Robert W. Nero, Retired Senior Ecologist for Manitoba Conservation.

Education is also a familiar realm for Jim. Besides presenting live owl programs to school children, he authored the book "Owls of the World: Their Lives, Behavior and Survival". Several film crews and various authors of owl books and CDs have Jim to thank for lending his expertise to their work.

As the manager of Manitoba Conservation's Biodiversity Conservation Section, Jim has had a wide impact on the conservation of owls and their habitat across Canada. He's helped to create management and recovery programs for seven at-risk owl species. This compassionate man also helps individual owls, not as a formal rehabilitator, but in transporting owls to and from rehabilitators, replacing young owls in nests, and more.

And since he's not even close to retirement, the owls of the world can only expect more good to come from this true champion of owls.

Special Achievement Award
Dr. Gary E. Duke

Nearly everyone is familiar with owl pellets, but Gary Duke is the man we have to thank for understanding how it all works. His pioneering research on owl digestion with Great Horned Owls still stands as the classic and most comprehensive work in the field.

Serving as the Director of the Avian Research Center of the University of Minnesota, he collaborated with researchers across the USA and internationally, resulting in a wide array of publications and presentations. He authored more than 40 publications on raptors, most being about owls.

"Owls were his passion, his favorite bird," says his widow, Maryann Duke. "He especially admired the Great Horned Owl because he thought they were so brave and tough."

Gary is perhaps most well-known for co-founding the The Raptor Center in St. Paul in 1974 and serving as Co-Director until 1986. The Raptor Center specializes in the medical care, rehabilitation, and conservation of eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons, currently treating about 800 birds a year. It has grown into an internationally known program, providing training in raptor medicine and surgery for veterinarians around the world and identifying emerging issues related to raptor health and populations. The Raptor Center's education program has grown to reach 240,000 people annually, serving to strengthen the bond between humans and birds.

Gary passed away in 2006 at age 68. He handled his battle with Alzheimer's "with typical grace and humor and was a gentleman to the end. Our daughters and I are very proud of him," says Maryann. He resided in Shoreview, Minnesota.

2009 Judges

David H. Johnson - Director, Global Owl Project - Virginia, USA

Johan de Jong - Barn Owl Biologist - The Netherlands

Robert W. Nero - Great Gray Owl Biologist - Manitoba, Canada

Louise Shimmel - Director, Cascades Raptor Center - Oregon, USA

Tony Warburton - Honorary President, World Owl Trust - England

2009 Sponsors

World Owl Trust

Center for Biological Diversity

Global Owl Project

Raptor Education Group

Gray Owl Fund


Festival of Owls

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about becoming a sponsor


Lady Gray'l Award
Mozart the Eurasian Eagle Owl
Special Achievement Award
Jemima Parry-Jones

Mozart the Eurasian Eagle Owl, winner of the 2008 Lady Gray'l Award, was captive bred in Newent in Gloucestershire in England and raised by Jemima Parry-Jones. Since he considers himself to be a human, he thrived on attention during his childhood at the Royal Academy of Music with Jemima (where he acquired his name), and later from his adoring public at the National Birds of Prey Centre. He loved people so much that he even allowed numerous blind people to experience what an owl was by patiently allowing their hands to feel his body. Most owls would not tolerate such touching and indeed he does not like it normally but seems to understand when it is blind people who need to see by touch.

Mozart was the forerunner of trained owls in the United Kingdom and other countries, helping Jemima to develop and refine owl training and care techniques she later published in two books and a video on owls. These experiences also helped Jemima to write the section on care of owls for the Secretary of State's Guidelines for Zoos.

Mozart and Jemima came to South Carolina with plans to join forces with the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey in 2004, but returned to England in 2007 to create the new International Centre for Birds of Prey instead. While in the U.S., Mozart and Jemima visited the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Mozart "happily provided demonstrations of owl courtship," says Dr. Melissa Hughes. "My students were always quite pleased when he favored them with an offer of dead rat." During his life so far, he has likely helped educate over a million people about owls through video, television, programs, and just working on display for his treasured public.

For her work with Mozart and other owls educating hundreds of thousands of people about owls, expertise in breeding owls, training owls and their care, owl rehabilitation, and safeguarding the welfare of captive owls through crafting guidelines and conducting inspections, Jemima Parry-Jones herself is also receiving a new Special Achievement Award from the World Owl Hall of Fame.

Champion of Owls Award
Dr. C. Stuart Houston

The 2008 Champion of Owls Award winner coincidentally happened to be the International Festival of Owls' keynote presenter, Dr. C. Stuart Houston from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  Stuart has banded over 10,000 owls of 11 species, published 51 papers on owls, written reviews for 6 owl books, and inspired multiple generations of ornithologists, despite being a medical doctor himself.

"He always involved other people in his work, from farm lads to grown people," says Dr. Robert Nero of Winnipeg, a Champion of Owls award winner himself and keeper of Lady Gray'l during her lifetime. "[His wife] Mary Houston is right up there with Stuart. They are a team."

Stuart has been banding birds since 1943. To date he has banded over 7,600 Great Horned Owls, which led him to become the lead author on the comprehensive Birds of North America account on the species. It was only by inspiring generations of farmers and farm kids to look for owl nests that he was able to band such vast numbers of Great Horned Owls. Innumerable people caught the owl bug from Stuart, with individuals going on to become a biology professor, a Minister of Conservation, a provincial ecologist, and many became bird banders.

Stuart's Champion of Owls Award will join a long list of other awards on his curriculum vitae, including awards from the American Ornithologists' Union, Canadian Nature Federation, Raptor Research Foundation, and being named an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Special Achievement Award
Richard J. Clark

Richard Clark, Ph.D. received a Special Achievement Award for his academic work on behalf of owls. His doctoral dissertation on Short-eared Owls was the first owl species covered in the Wildlife Monograph series. Richard served as an editor of the proceedings of the 1987 Northern Forest Owl Symposium, has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on owls, made presentations at scientific meetings in five countries, plus refereed over 100 papers for a variety of scientific journals. He has also served as an editorial consultant for a several reputable books and magazines.

But Richard's most significant work for owls was serving as the senior compiler for the Working Bibliography on Owls of the World. This publication compiled 6,590 citations for all the known owl publications around the world at that time, required 11 staff-years of effort, and became an indispensable tool for innumerable owl researchers. He also served as Coordinator of the New World Strigiformes for the World Working Group on Birds of Prey, among other things.

Special Achievement Award
Johan de Jong

Barn Owls in The Netherlands owe a debt of gratitude to Johan de Jong, who also received a Special Achievement Award. Under his inspiring leadership of the Dutch Barn Owl Working Group, the species increased in the country from a mere 104 breeding pairs in 1979 to 3,160 breeding pairs in 2007. Johan has personally banded over 13,000 Barn Owlets. As part of his work, he has involved hundreds of volunteers and has taught everyone from schoolchildren to housewives about owls. His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands even loaned Johan his infrared camera for his studies when the technology was new.

Johan has written two books on the Barn Owl and created the annual Dutch National Owl Day. He also served as the chairman of the 2007 World Owl Conference planning committee, chairs the Little Owl Group in the Dutch province of Friesland, and has a daily segment on Radio Friesland highlighting the birds of the area.

We were delighted that Johan flew in from The Netherlands to personally receive his award for his 30+ years of dedication owls and nature.

Special Achievement Award
Paul Muriithi Kibuthu

A Special Achievement Award was presented to Paul Muriithi Kibuthu of Kenya for going against the grain to bring hope for the Mackinder's Eagle Owl. Despite growing up in a culture where owls are stoned to death as harbingers of death, Paul became interested in protecting owls through his involvement in the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya in school. He later observed owls while he farmed his land, learning their behaviors and eating habits firsthand.

In 1997 Paul came upon an innovative idea after a group of foreign tourists inquired about where they could view a Mackinder's Eagle Owl. He pinpointed the whereabouts of all the local pairs and put up a sign along the road for tourists advertising his owl guiding service. He divided his guiding income with the farmers whose land surrounded the owl territories he was visiting. With a financial incentive and the knowledge that owls were helping to protect their crops by eating rodents, local attitudes towards owls began to change to one of protecting the owls instead of stoning them.

Paul has gone on to become a member of the Mackinder's Eagle Owl project, studying the effects of land use practices and culture on owl conservation. He also promotes owl conservation in national newspapers and radio, and his work was even featured on BBCradio.

Special Achievement Award
Deane P. Lewis

An Aussie and tekkie with an enormous owl tattoo on his back was also conferred a Special Achievement Award. Deane Lewis of Maryborough, Queensland admits "The tattoo was what got me interested in owls--it was around 1997 and I wanted a tattoo that represented where my life was at that time, and decided on the solitary, wise owl."

While researching owls for his tattoo, Deane found a scarcity of owl information on the internet. He soon remedied the problem by starting an owl website that inadvertently became the world's premier owl website, www.owlpages.com. Deane's award-winning owl website averages over 3,000 visitors per day, from schoolchildren to biologists. His website includes everything anyone could ever want to know about owls (or links to the information), several forums for everyone from owl fantasy book fans to owl biologists, news, research, mythology, and more.

Deane also hosts the International Festival of Owls website and maintained the Global Owl Project website at no charge.He also helped compile a DVD with descriptions of all the world's owl species.

2008 Judges

David H. Johnson - Director, Global Owl Project - Virginia, USA

Robert W. Nero - Great Gray Owl Biologist - Manitoba, Canada

Louise Shimmel - Director, Cascades Raptor Center - Oregon, USA

Tony Warburton - Honorary President, World Owl Trust - England

2008 Sponsors

World Owl Trust

Center for Biological Diversity

Global Owl Project

Owl Research Institute

Raptor Education Group

Hancock House Publishers

Gray Owl Fund


Festival of Owls

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about becoming a sponsor


Lady Gray'l Award
Owly the Short-eared Owl

Owly, a Short-eared Owl from Alaska, started on his career path as an educator when he crashed headlong into the floodlight of a fishing boat out on the open ocean during his first migration. After winning over the crew of the boat and the villagers of Saint Paul Island as they all came together to care for the injured raptor, Owly traveled by plane to the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage, where he received more specialized care.

Owly's physical injuries healed first; his psychological healing did not really begin till he was moved out of the clinic and into the stimulating environment of volunteer Barbara Doak's sunroom cage in her home. While watching birds at the nearby birdfeeders, he became animated and began to eat on his own for the first time since his injury. It soon became apparent, though, that vision problems sustained during his crash would be permanent, leaving him unable to see well enough to live in the wild again. He then accepted a new job as an educator, working with the treatment center's staff as an ambassador for his kind.

Owly's easygoing temperament makes him an excellent choice for educating blind and partially sighted people, who can relate to his handicap. But perhaps Owly's biggest achievement came on an occasion when his audience included an autistic child. He was able to connect with this child, apparently, as no human had: the little boy, previously considered to be without language capabilities, ran up to his teacher and spontaneously began asking questions about Owly, astounding parents and teacher alike.

Barbara Doak, Owly's handler and keeper, sees him as a very special individual. "He's a very polite, nice bird," said Doak. It was Doak's son Dan who suggested she submit a nomination for Owly for the World Owl Hall of Fame's Lady Gray'l Award. When Dan was told that Owly had won, he responded, "I have never known such a famous owl before, let alone one so modest."

Owly has made so many connections - connections that warm people's hearts to all owls. In his 14 years of work so far, he has touched the lives of 9,800 people, both in the city of Anchorage and in remote villages requiring flights in small aircraft. And yes: he has also been back to visit the people of Saint Paul, who worked so hard to save his life.

Champion of Owls Award
Tony Warburton
tony warburton

Tony Warburton, Honorary President of the World Owl Trust in Cumbria, England, dedicated the past 40 years of his life to owls. His interest in the creatures sparked when as a young lad he was out collecting firewood with his grandfather and caught sight of his first Tawny Owl. He had a voracious appetite for all books about wildlife, and his "Observer's Book of Birds" got a particularly hard workout. He was especially enthralled by a portrait of a somewhat "spooky" Barn Owl on page 115 of this book, and from there his interest in owls snowballed until in 1982, with two friends, he co-authored the first monograph to be published about this bird, the result of almost 40 years of combined fieldwork by the authors.

Warburton's extensive work on behalf of owls has included over 1,000 conservation lectures with live owls throughout the UK and Finland, four decades of owl research, countless magazine and periodical articles, and hosting wildlife programs on British and Dutch television that often focused on owls. Given his work, it's no wonder that this man is considered the forefather of owl research, conservation, and rehabilitation in the United Kingdom.

Over the years Warburton has founded several organizations to help owls through captive-breeding programs in concert with habitat protection and restoration. In 1972 he created the British Owl Breeding and Release Scheme which succeeded in releasing over 1,600 captive-bred Barn Owls as well as many other species back into the wild once suitable habitat had been restored. In 1987 he created the World Owl Centre, the world's first Owl Conservation Breeding Centre to open to the public, with 80,000 to 93,000 visitors per year. And perhaps the capstone of his achievements was to found the World Owl Trust, to work to save owls on an international scale. The Trust now has over 3,000 members worldwide and has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Philippine government to manage the Philippine Owl Conservation Programme in that country. The agreement led to the first breeding of the rare Philippine Eagle Owl in captivity in 2005 and again in 2006, resulting in a much greater understanding of the species overall, knowledge which can now be used to help this highly endangered species in the wild.

Unquenchable enthusiasm has been the hallmark of Warburton's work and personality. He has inspired countless other to follow in his footsteps and strike out on their own in the name of owls. At age 71, he has no intention of ever retiring, for he says, "The battle is far from won as yet!"

"To say I am honored to receive the award is the understatement of the year," says Warburton. It has special meaning to him since it is an award judged by his peers. Katherine McKeever and Robert Nero, both of Canada and recipients of the 2006 Champion of Owls Awards, are people that Warburton looks up to, and he is humbled to be named for the same honor.

2007 Judges

David H. Johnson - Director, Global Owl Project - Virginia, USA

Robert W. Nero - Great Gray Owl Biologist - Manitoba, Canada

Louise Shimmel - Director, Cascades Raptor Center - Oregon, USA

2007 Sponsors

Center for Biological Diversity

Global Owl Project

Owl Research Institute

Raptor Education Group

Buteo Books

Gray Owl Fund

Natural Heritage Books

Northwoods LTD


Festival of Owls

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about becoming a sponsor


Lady Gray'l Award
Fat Broad the Spotted Owl (April 1970 - 14 February 2002)

In the spring of 1970 Spotted Owl biologist Eric Forsman saw a Spotted Owl fly into a cavity high up in an old-growth Douglas-fir in the Coast Ranges just west of Philomath, Oregon. Since at the time this would have been only the second Spotted Owl nest ever found in Oregon, Eric climbed the tree to investigate. As he headed up the tree he was attacked by the adult owls, both of which raked him repeatedly with their talons, leaving scratches all over the back of his head, and a long scratch across the side of his face that just missed his eye. When he reached the nest, he found two fluffy owlets inside that were about three weeks old. They had been bitten so badly by parasitic flies that their eyes were completely glued shut with blood. Eric removed one of them from the nest to treat its eye problem. When he returned to put it back in the nest the next day, the other chick had been killed by a predator and the adults were gone. Eric considered putting the owlet back in the nest to see if the adults would return to take care of it, but decided instead that it would be better to raise it in captivity and use it as an exhibition bird when he gave talks to educate people about Spotted Owls. As Eric drove home that day he had no idea that this was the beginning of a 32-year odyssey during which that little ball of fluff in the box in the back seat would become his constant companion, as well as an ambassador for her species.

Due to the owlet's tendency toward overeating and obesity, one of Eric's friends commented one day "She looks just like the character they call Fat Broad in the BC comic strip". The name stuck, and the political incorrectness of her name never bothered her.

Fat Broad rapidly became part of Eric's family, as well as an important source of information on the biology of the Spotted Owl. She lived in a large cage beside the Forsman house, and for years Eric kept notes on her molt and her behavior. These observations led Eric to publish papers on the molt, behavior, and nesting chronology of the Spotted Owl. But much more importantly, she traveled with Eric to numerous public presentations and visits to schools when he gave talks about Spotted Owls and old forests. At these talks Eric frequently let her loose to roam around the room. She was a great addition to the programs because regardless of whether Eric gave a good presentation or not, people in the audience were always in awe of the beautiful brown owl that was completely at ease in the middle of the crowd. As an ambassador for her species, she was always in demand for presentations and pictures, but probably the most significant occasion was when she was featured in the Life Magazine Year in Pictures for 1990. The picture of her sitting on the broad shoulder of a tough old logger named Wilbur Heath was truly worth a thousand words in terms of capturing the tension between the constantly growing human population and the needs of the other animals that inhabit our planet.

When she was about 25 years old, Fat Broad began to show noticeable signs of old age, and gradually became totally blind. During the last years of her life, Eric rarely took her out to public meetings because she was so old and frail that such occasions made her tired and grumpy. In her waning years, she spent most of her time just sitting around, eating mice, and waiting for somebody to come home and talk to her or give her a scratch on the head. In February 2002, Fat Broad stopped eating and just sat around with her eyes closed, looking really tired. It became obvious that no amount of doctoring was going to make any difference. On her last day of life Eric found her laying on one of her perches, too weak to move. He went to work, but very soon returned home, unable to concentrate and expecting the worst. She was still squatting in the same place, barely breathing. He picked her up and held her in his lap and said "Hey old girl, I guess this is about it, huh?" She was so weak she couldn't even raise her head to talk to Eric like she usually did. She just lay there taking long shallow breaths that gradually slowed, and then stopped, leaving a gaping hole in one Spotted Owl biologist's heart. She would have been 32 that April.

Fat Broad was buried in the woods on the hill above Eric's house, facing the Coast Range Mountains, where her kind is still struggling to survive in the face of constant encroachment by humans and the threat of displacement by Barred Owls. Although just a single owl, Fat Broad played a huge role in Eric's life and research and touched the lives of untold thousands of people who met her.

Champion of Owls Award
Katherine McKeever

"The Owl Lady of Canada," "The Grande Dame of Owls," and "The Jane Goodall of Owls" are all phrases that have been aptly used to describe Katherine (Kay) McKeever, the founder and president of The Owl Foundation in Vineland, Ontario, Canada.

Although strongly wildlife-orientated as a child and teenager, after high school Kay joined the Canadian Air Force during the 1939-45 war. She served on the Pacific coast until 1945, then worked for an air survey organization in Ontario, where she got her pilot's license. Following this she married, had two children and lived in Brazil and Argentina for 6 years. It was not until she was 38, divorced and had designed several houses that she built her own house in the Niagara Peninsula where she has lived ever since. There, with her young son, she began a hands-on experience with traumatized local wildlife. A juvenile Screech Owl from the Humane Society in 1965 was her first owl. The poor owlet died but an investigation of the reasons began a 40-year involvement with owls, from rehabilitation through behaviour, breeding and architectural cage design.

Kay's early efforts focused on owl rehabilitation, and thus the Owl Rehabilitation Research Foundation was born at her home in Vineland, Ontario. Through trial and error and with the help of several gifted veterinarians, Kay developed many successful techniques for returning owls to the wild. These were compiled into a manual titled "Care and Rehabilitation of Injured Owls," which has become known as the bible of owl rehabilitation and is now in the second printing of the fourth edition. To date it has sold close to 8,000 copies in nearly 30 countries around the world.

Later, when faced with so many unreleasable but otherwise healthy owls, several of uncommon species, Kay's later efforts turned to recycling the genes of these damaged owls. She began a program to breed permanently injured owls and return their progeny to the wild. This involved developing innovative new cage designs that allowed the owls to make choices about mates, visibility, and more. This came naturally to Kay, who also happens to be a self-taught architect. Her cage designs have become the ideal that facilities strive to achieve.

The breeding project also led to the installation of remote cameras in the owl cages to monitor pair bonding and mating behaviour. With thousands of hours of footage of owls that have no idea they are being observed, Kay has become a treasure trove of information about intimate owl behaviour.

Kay's unique sense of humour, tell-it-like-it-is personality, and vast experience have led her to become a much sought-after speaker for hundreds of meeting across North America over the years. Her efforts have also been recognized with innumerable awards, including honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from two Universities and even the Order of Canada, the highest Canadian civilian honour possible.

Kay's life is now entirely dedicated to owls, and has been for most of the 40+ years since receiving that first Screech Owl. The Owl Rehabilitation Research Foundation has evolved into The Owl Foundation, where Kay spends her days (and nights!) fielding phone calls from rehabilitators, researchers, and others seeking information about owls from around the globe; overseeing the care of nearly 200 resident owls at The Owl Foundation; and trying to find time to put her wealth of knowledge down on paper.

Champion of Owls Award
Dr. Robert W. Nero

Naturalist, ornithologist, avocational archaeologist, poet, and a well-known scientist with nearly 500 publications and 9 books to his credit, Dr. Robert (Bob) Nero is perhaps best known for his pioneering research on the Great Gray Owl.

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Bob served a stint in the military during World War II, then earned his PhD researching Red-winged Blackbirds under John T. Emlen, while also studying under the likes of J. J. Hickey and Aldo Leopold.

Employment eventually led Bob to Canada, where he has lived for over 50 years.  He has worked for the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History, the University of Saskatchewan at Regina, the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, and Manitoba Conservation.  He still holds the title of Volunteer Senior Ecologist with Manitoba Conservation.

Bob began his pioneering work on Great Gray Owls in the 1960s when little was known of this elusive species.  His Smithsonian Institution Press book "Great Gray Owl: Phantom of the Northern Forest" quickly became a classic, in part due to Bob's unique twin talents as both a scientist and a poet.

But one very special Great Gray Owl helped Bob gain new insights into the species and played a significant role in his life for over 21 years.  In 1984 Bob rescued an owlet from certain death as the runt of her brood.  This owlet grew up to be known as Lady Gray'l, and together she and Bob taught thousands of school children about owls and raised money for graduate research and wildlife rehabilitation.  Lady Gray'l also gave Bob insights into the behavior and molt patterns of her species.  As a direct result of their efforts, the Great Gray Owl was named the provincial bird emblem of Manitoba on July 16, 1987.

Besides researching Great Gray Owls, Bob helped develop management plans for Barn, Burrowing, and Great Gray Owls.  Over the years he has studied eleven species of owls, and worked diligently to organize two international owl symposia.

Bob has received numerous awards from a plethora of organizations over the years including the Manitoba Naturalists Society, Saskatchewan Natural History Society, Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club, The Wildlife Society, and the highest award possible from the Society of Canadian Ornithologists, the Doris Huestis Speirs Award.

In his most recent book, "Growing Old Together," Bob pays tribute to his wife Ruth through a collection of poetry.  She has stuck with him through thick and through thin, always encouraging Bob to write and pursue his interests, and for 21 years sharing him with Lady Gray'l.  Her unfailing support is behind Bob's talent for making this world a better place for owls.


2006 Judges

James R. Duncan - Manager, Biodiversity Conservation - Manitoba Conservation - Manitoba, Canada

Marjorie Gibson - Executive Director, Raptor Education Group - Wisconsin, USA

David H. Johnson - Director, Global Owl Project - Virginia, USA

2006 Sponsors

Global Owl Project

Raptor Education Group

Gray Owl Fund

Ron Buck's Worth Framing

Festival of Owls

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