Burrowing Owl, Snowy Owl, Burrowing Owl, Great Gray Owl, Burrowing Owl. Photo: From left: D. Martin, Barbara Fleming, Kathy Cline, Robert Palmer, Jolie Gordon. All Audubon Photography Awards.

Birds in the News

Owl Fixation

First came owl cafes; now, owl bars. Why can’t we leave these predators alone?

After coveting Japan’s owl cafes, Londoners demanded a live owl bar of their very own. And they’re getting one—next month a pop-up bar called Annie the Owl will allow visitors to mingle with raptors over cocktails in London’s Soho neighborhood.

Twenty pounds, around $31, will get you two drinks (such as a vodka-gin Hoot or an Owl-presso Martini) and two hours of what the proprietors call a “unique owl indulgence.” Only 10-12 visitors will be allowed at a time during the pop-up’s week-long run, and the idea is already so popular that tickets are being sold by lottery: More than 60,000 people have entered to win a spot.  

As we’ve previously reported, this is a bad idea. These birds aren’t suited for this purpose, Kent Knowles of the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia reminded Audubon earlier this month. “They’re not pets,” Knowles said. “They never will be pets.”

Even the charity slated to receive a bulk of the profits, the Barn Owl Centre, has pulled out, saying the concept is “purely abusive to owls.” There’s a change.org petition against it, too.

Owls are among the most vicious predators out there, or as Knowles puts it, “they're the most bloody independent, uncooperative critters on the face of the earth.” So why do we imagine these wild creatures to be good coffee companions?

Dr. Mark Hauber, professor of psychology at Hunter College, attributes our owlish fixation their adorable, nearly humanoid faces: “Unlike most birds, owls have a facial disk whereby the eyes and the beak (nose) are in the same plane, instead of facing to the sides (like chickens). Thus they remind us of ourselves, and we empathize with them,” Hauber says. “Having large, human-sized eyes helps too!"

But just because owls exude human-ness doesn’t mean we should invite them to the bar—get your owl fix by browsing these beautiful shots instead. 

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