STARKVILLE — Charlie is a 5-week-old barn owl who lives in a tree along Greensboro Street, not far from downtown Starkville.
Until last weekend, he lived in a large oak tree in front of the Greensboro Center with his mother and a few siblings. The tree was planted back in the 1920s, nearby residents say, and grew to become 8 or 9 feet around.
But these days, Charlie is living in a tree next door.
As storms rocked the Golden Triangle last weekend, high winds brought several trees down throughout Starkville. Unfortunately for Charlie, his tree was one of them.
Charlie crawled from the downed tree toward the Greensboro Center Sunday morning, clawed his way up the front steps and made his way inside through an open front door. The door was propped open for church services going on inside.
It was in the foyer of the Greensboro Center where Charlie met Mallory Keasler, an 11-year-old girl who was on her way out of the church service. Keasler was heading into the foyer at around 11:45 a.m. when she noticed something moving in the corner.
“At first I thought it was a possum,” she said.
Upon closer inspection, Keasler”s father, Mike, realized Charlie was an owl.
Mike Keasler then covered Charlie in a blanket and his wife, Myra, drove the owl to the offices of the Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation group in Water Valley. There, Charlie was found to be in fine health, so Nancy Fachman, education specialist for the group, brought Charlie back to Starkville Wednesday afternoon.
“I”m just glad to see Charlie again,” Mallory Keasler said. “I really missed him.”
Lawrence Croft, president of the Oktibbeha Audobon Society, built a large box birdhouse for Charlie, which was placed in an oak tree roughly 40 feet from the owl”s old home. Charlie was placed in the box by Fachman Wednesday afternoon.
Fachman and other wildlife officials hope Charlie”s mother is still in the area and will return to the new home to take care of her offspring.
“We think everything is going to be fine,” Fachman said. “We”ve gotten on it within a few days. I think the parent is still in the area. (Charlie) will probably call out at night and the parent will be flying around and hear it. It usually works out.”
Charlie isn”t the only owl wildlife officials hope to reintroduce to the tree on Greensboro Street.
When winds brought down Charlie”s home, two more barn owls remained inside the portion of the tree that did not fall. It was only when workers from Big A”s Bucket Service were cutting up the remaining portion of the tree that they discovered the other owls.
One of the owls has since been euthanized because its injuries were too extensive, but the other is recovering at Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation with a broken leg. Fachman hopes to return the injured owl to Greensboro Street after it heals within the next few weeks.
Wildlife officials said they will keep watch over the birdhouse and keep track of the owls” health.
Since the birdhouse was installed directly in front of the Greensboro Center, which houses the Starkville School District”s administrative offices, the preceding drew the attention of school officials. Superintendent Judy Couey was all smiles as she watched the events unfold Wednesday afternoon.
“I think we”re the only school district in the state with owl condos out front,” Couey joked.