By Mary Anne Weber, Education Director, Houston Audubon
2021 was a tough year for many people. Here at Houston Audubon, we kept focused on bird conservation and education as we have for over 50 years. Working with live animals is both rewarding and difficult, especially when they enter their senior years. This past year was especially challenging for the hardworking staff in the education department. We bid farewell to four ambassador birds at the Raptor Center–Tskili, Juliet, Percy, and Luna.
Tskili, Great Horned Owl
Tskili was found injured in Montana in 1992 as an adult Great Horned Owl. He suffered two broken wings in a collision with a vehicle on a highway. “Tskili” is the Cherokee word for “magic maker” and what they called Great Horned Owls. Tskili was certainly magical for so many as an education bird! He took up residence as an ambassador at Wind Rock Wild Bird Rescue that same year with Mary Anne Weber and moved with her to Houston in 1999. He quickly became the most popular owl at presentations. He continued educating until the very end. He survived several moves including the move to Houston, a tornado, winter freezes, and summer heat! The great folks at Gulf Coast Avian and Exotics helped him through a previous health crisis in which he needed a blood transfusion. His mew partner Ms. Simon helped save Tskili with a critical blood transfusion in 2018. This past fall, he had a similar health crisis but did not make it through. He is desperately missed by so many. He helped educate hundreds of thousands in his 30+ year career as an ambassador. He was also featured in many newspaper articles and on the front cover of Houston Atlas of Biodiversity.
Juliet, Barred Owl
Juliet the Barred Owl also bid farewell in 2021. Juliet spent almost her entire life as an education ambassador after being found as a young juvenile with a badly broken wing. As she got older she developed a significant cataract in her left eye that looked like the moon. She was filmed by National Geographic for an episode of Nat Geo Animal ER with the vets at Gulf Coast Avian and Exotics concerning her cataract. She passed on the night of a full moon and is remembered by so many that had a chance to meet her at the Raptor Center or see her in action at a program. Education team member and artist Javier Salas created a beautiful sketch of Juliet with the moon in her eye last year.
Percy, Eastern Screech-Owl
Percy the Eastern Screech-Owl helped inspire a love for birds for more than 13 years! He hatched in the wild in 2008 but was found illegally shot by a pellet gun in Bear Creek Park as a newly fledged juvenile. He was rescued, but the damage done to one of his wings and one of his eyes was beyond repair. He was transferred to Houston Audubon in 2008 and quickly became a most loved owl at programs and owl prowls. Percy was named after the screech owl that accompanied Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter series. Percy was a hit at many Harry Potter events over the years and dozens of owl prowls at both the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary and the Raptor Center. Percy was cute but tough and tenacious and a favorite amongst summer campers.
Luna, Swallow-tailed Kite
It was with great sadness that we bid farewell to Luna the Swallow-tailed Kite this past year. She was a beautiful bird that inspired so many in her 8 years as an ambassador. Luna had heart disease and the fantastic vets at Gulf Coast did all they could to help her when she finally succumbed to her symptoms, but she unfortunately did not pull through. She was a constant friend to Skeeter our Mississippi Kite and is missed and remembered every day. She fell from her nest as a hatchling in 2013. The rescuers could not get her back into the nest and she was eventually raised at a local rehab center. She came to Houston Audubon in 2014 and quickly became a companion to Skeeter and a favorite for photography shoots and programs. She had the biggest heart and loved the attention from visitors at the Raptor Center. Her favorite treats were super worms and she loved sitting in the rain. Luna was goofy but curious and really smart.
Please join us in bidding farewell to these hardworking and dedicated birds that inspired and educated countless people about the importance of bird and habitat conservation.