It was a chilly, grey day in the oasis when this pretty little lady popped in to say "Salam!" She is a Little Owl, or "Athene Noctua." One of 13 recognized races of Little Owl spread across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, The Little Owl was sacred to the goddess Athena, from whom it gets its generic name. Because it has adapted so well to human environments, the Little Owl is one of the most widely distributed owls around the Earth. In Egypt she is known as "Um Uway'e," or in English, "Mother of Owls."
There is a small window in my kitchen that faces the back sundeck and lightens my kitchen chores with bright, happy sunshine. But on this particular day, as I searched out this window for any sign of hope, I sighed at the drab, cloudy and lightly misty skies. Not particularly enthused to return to my dishes, I lingered a little longer at the window. The grey sky, and the grey concrete wall of the room over our garage seemed all of one drab, dripping color.
Then she moved, just slightly, lightly flicking a brown facial feather as though a raindrop rolled down into one of those huge round yellow eyes and she twitched to clear her view. I didn't even know I was staring at her until that tiny movement. My eyes shifted focus from the drab sky to those amazing eyes. I found her gaze firmly focused… on me! Oh, Delight! My heart leapt with joy, I was so excited to see an owl! In daylight! Alright, half daylight, at best, but still… an owl! Hurray!!
I slipped away quickly, running to grab my camera. She was amazingly patient, peacefully perched on the top of the wall only about five meters away from the window. I returned with my camera, and ever so slowly, quietly turned the crank on the screened window pane. When it was open just enough for a clear view, I snapped the first photo. She stood up, and I thought she would fly, but instead she gave me a much nicer pose, showing off her shapely white legs to me! Naturally, I couldn't refuse the obvious invitation, so I snapped that picture, too! Satisfied that she burned her image into the hearts of countless viewers, the little owl saluted me with one wing and off she flew into the grey, cloudy day.
When I was a teenager, I was such a nerd. My first girl-crush was the Greek goddess, Athena. I wasn't very impressed with owls, though – maybe I was just jealous. She made such a fuss all the time over her stupid little owl, and never noticed my existance! Then when I was a bit older, the movie, "Clash of the Titans" came out, and that geeky little metal owl was so adorable, I must have watched that movie 19 times.
Ancient Greece was not the only beautiful land that loved this darling little owl. In the earliest system of writing, the Hieroglyphics of the Ancient Egyptians, Um Uway'e proves that she is, indeed, the Mother of the Owl. The symbol of the Little Owl signifies the consonantal sound of "M," as in "mom," or more appropriately, "mummy." Click here to learn more about the Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic sytem.
In these more modern times, Egyptians view the owl as a bad omen. Unlike in the West, where owls are typically seen as symbols of wisdom, they are not appreciated here in Egypt. This is because owls are often found occupying abandoned homes or other buildings that have suffered from some disaster. It is thought that if an owl takes up residence in a home, the home will soon become abandoned. However, Little Owls prefer farmland and open fields, nesting in both abandoned buildings and buildings fitted with custom owl boxes by people who, like myself, don't believe in superstitions.
The Little Owl has an average life expectancy of only three years, and becomes quite vocal in the nighttime as their breeding season approaches. The female lays 3-5 eggs which she then incubates for 28–29 days, and fledging takes another 26 days after hatching. I also learned from Wikipedia that Little Owls are often seen in daylight hours, and that it is not unusual for them to remain on their perch, in full view, while people are around. I was certainly surprised to see this gorgeous Little Owl, and now that I know she's my neighbor, I am definitely looking forward to her next visit!