Shangri La’s Beloved Gentle Ambassador Maxine, the Barred Owl, passes away

Published 9:37 am Monday, December 12, 2016

Special to The Leader


ORANGE ‑ Shangri La Botanical Garden and Nature Center is saddened to announce the death of Maxine, our beloved Barred Owl. Maxine died peacefully on Thursday, December 1, 2016 at the age of 14. Known as the gentle ambassador for Shangri La’s education department, Maxine had a place in the hearts of many in our community.

Maxine enriched the lives of tens of thousands of students, guests, staff, and volunteers with programs at Shangri La and in the community through the very popular “Meet Maxine” and “Owl Puke” programs in which she starred. Even though Maxine was a Barred Owl, commonly found in our region, she was anything but common to those who had the opportunity to meet her. Whether Maxine was visiting a school, library, or nursing home, she was always the center of attention. Her gentle and calm demeanor provoked expressions of delight, countless fascinating questions, and innumerable hypotheses about her behavior. There’s no doubt that she was also the most photographed feature at Shangri La!

In her youth, Maxine had an unfortunate encounter with a barbed wire fence and sustained a severe injury to her right wing, which permanently prevented her from returning to the wild. Despite this, she lived in a luxurious custom mew (dwelling) at Shangri La with an ample diet of mice and quail while receiving monthly pedicures and “beak-cures.”

Maxine was loved and cared for by many volunteers and staff over the years. Through the efforts of this dedicated group, Maxine was able to teach valuable lessons about conservation and wildlife protection to many children and adults. A special heartfelt thank you goes out to the many Shangri La volunteers for their years of dedicated service, care and outreach with Maxine.

The name, Barred Owl, refers to the crosswise bars found on the breast and lengthwise streaks on the belly of this beautiful owl. In the eastern United States, it is the only owl with dark brown eyes. Barred Owls usually nest in tree cavities or in the abandoned nests of a hawks or crows near red maple swamps or marshes. They will also use man-made nest boxes. Barred Owls prefer a diet of mice and small mammals.

While Maxine’s death is a tremendous loss, we are all grateful to have had the opportunity to learn valuable lessons about our natural world and have a glimpse into the world of owls through our gentle ambassador, Maxine.