Audubon Magazine - Friend of the Owl
Photos by Sydney Walsh for Audubon Magazine | Read the full story by Paul Greenberg
American Ecologist and Author Carl Safina has traveled the globe to closely study wild animals. His most profound journey yet involves an Eastern Screech-Owl, who he named Alfie, in his own yard in Setauket on Long Island, New York.
An animal rehabilitator rescued Alfie as a chick—possibly the discarded prey of a careless crow—and brought her to Safina in the summer of 2018 so matted and infested with fly eggs that she couldn’t deter- mine the species. Being a field-trained ecologist, a former falconer, and a rescuer of other birds, Safina knew he had a screech-owl on his hands. That she was female he would learn only later when he successfully supported Alfie’s transition to free-living adulthood and watched her rear a brood of chicks. But the greatest mystery Carl would uncover in Alfie was that, over time, she became more and more open to an interspecies relationship.In October of 2023, I spent an afternoon into the evening with Safina and his wife, Patricia Paladines, waiting for Alfie. They weren't sure she'd show up that night. After several hours of anticipation, we heard Alfie announce her presence in the darkness. Minutes later she landed on the branch of the Dogwood tree in the backyard. Illuminated only by a porch light, Alfie perched herself in our company. She recognized Carl and Patricia and was weary of me, a stranger. Shortly after, she returned back to the darkness.