Sara Morris Swetcharnik

Romeo's Offering

By Sara Morris Swetcharnik

Tyto alba, the common barn owl, is found virtually worldwide. Juliette, the particular owl of this story, leads a very sheltered life in her cage at the Tegucigalpa zoo, on a diet of white domestic mice.

As I approach her cage, she is perched crouching high in a dark corner. Juliette extends her wings to appear as large as possible, rocking her body back and forth and threatening with hisses and snaps from her strong little beak.

As I prepare my sculpture materials and sit down, she relaxes into her normal roosting position. Her large head, rotating atop an invisible neck, dwarfs an erect, slender body. Turning her pale, heart-shaped face toward me, she blinks her dark brown eyes.

Rosy, the zoo director tells me that Juliette has a suitor. Once when arriving early at the zoo, Rosy saw him leaving from a rendezvous at the owl cage. He flew off in a low straight line, trailing a rasping, mournful shriek. But he had left a small brown mouse on top of Juliette's cage. Rosy often finds these offerings outside the cage. In exchange, Rosy leaves a white mouse for the wild suitor.