Bright Star-Bellatrix

Bellatrix Enhanced

Bellatrix is a most beautiful and enchanting Barn Owl, she is an Ambassador for owls and helps the conservationist association the Hawk & Owl Trust in England.

Her keeper is a well known conservationist and broadcaster  Chris Sperring, who is dedicated to his work and most knowledgeable about owls.

He and Bellatrix  teach people including  many children about owls and  conservation the ways ,we can help the animals.

“Do you give a hoot about owls” ?

The talks Chris gives are most  engaging and children ask many questions for example why is the barn owl’s face shaped the way it is? it is to do with sound waves and the way it detects its prey.

Bellatrix is the name of the third brightest star in the Constellation Of Orion.The Arabic name for the star is  Al Najid –  Conqueror.

Owls are closely associated with the goddess Athena and Bellatrix also means female warrior  in Latin .

So we very much welcome Bellatrix ,bright star and conquering warrior owl to the pegasus Blog .

I noticed when I first met  Chris, that he had a very good relationship with Bellatrix  and he kindly  agreed to share with us something of his communication and relationship with her.

This is what Chris says:

Chris & Bellarix

The relationship between Bellatrix and I is based on trust. Simple body language and subtle communications through the glove are all either of us need to understand one another. By pulling her feathers in tight to her body she tells me that she fears something, my role here is to find out what that is and remove the perceived threat. However, she can be afraid of something, yet willing to confront it.

If, for example, we are out and a cat or dog wanders by she will send them a message; at first she may display a fear reaction, but once she’s over the initial fear (she see’s cats and dogs regularly from the safety of her aviary) she often decides to challenge the intruder; this she does by fluffing her feathers to visually double her size, then she holds her wings out and sways from side to side, lowers her head and give us a warning cry, sounding a bit like the cry of the mythical banshee. This usually has the desired effect, which of course helps to build her confidence.

When she is tense I feel her grip tighten on my glove. This tells me that she is unsure of something, and often something that she has seen or heard long before I have cottoned on to it. When this happens it is up to me to distract her and act calmly to reassure her that I’m in charge and that I won’t let any harm come to her. She usually relaxes quite quickly and returns to what I call her ‘happy posture’.

By this I mean her head is held up in line with her body, and her feathers are relaxed, not tight and not too lose. Often her eyes will close slightly and occasionally she will ruffle her feathers, a bit like a dog shaking when it comes out of the water. These signs tell me that she is content. I have had many owls during my life, all with different personalities, and all of which I have built different kinds of bonds with. Most came to me as rescues in one way or another, so I had to learn their ways; their individual fears or phobias, their likes and dislikes and the ways they need to be handled.

Some take longer to trust than others, and some never truly trust. This is one of the reasons I don’t allow people to touch my owls; they rely on me to protect them and most are wary of people they don’t know. They learn to accept people being around them, but rely on me to ensure they always have their personal space. Bellatrix has been with me for about a year and in that time has done over 100 school visits, and many more adult lectures and talks, but she is still learning.

She is certainly wary of people, but she has settled in well. Beau, my other Barn Owl, has done many thousands of visits with me, and is probably nearing 20 years old. Even though both owls are female, as individuals they are miles apart.

Beau has a deep connection with me, so much so that when Beau is out and on duty she is by far the most relaxed owl in the world, often sleeping throughout my lectures (no comments please!) and at home she welcomes me into her aviary, but attacks anyone else who tries to enter. We even talk to each other, using high-pitched chirping noises that barn owls use between each other. She really enjoys our chats – hopefully Bellatrix will too one day.


Written By Chris Sperring  MBE

Conservation Officer for the Hawk & Owl Trust ( UK)

Photography by Andrew Dawes

& Bridgewater College respectively

Posted 1st  January  2015

© Wendy Datta 2015 All Rights Reserved