Bookmark and Share

More press releases

For Immediate Release, February 12, 2009

Contact: Karla Kinstler, World Owl Hall of Fame and International Festival of Owls Coordinator, (507) 896-4668 or (507) 896-3436,

British Owl Flies Into World Owl Hall of Fame

HOUSTON, Minn.— The owl whooose face adorned the United Kingdom’s first commemorative stamp of the third millennium is flying into the World Owl Hall of Fame, albeit posthumously. He will receive the prestigious Lady Gray’l Award on March 7, 2009 in Houston, Minnesota at the seventh annual International Festival of Owls.

Georgie the barn owl was the undeniable star of the World Owl Trust’s “Meet the Birds” programs on the grounds of Muncaster Castle in Cumbria, England. He captured the hearts and minds of well over a million people between 1990 and his passing in 2003 at age 13.

“Georgie really was a very special bird, and everyone loved him,” said Tony Warburton, founder of the Trust, Georgie’s caretaker, and himself a member of the World Owl Hall of Fame. Together Georgie and Warburton gave hundreds of lectures and television appearances promoting the Trust’s groundbreaking owl conservation efforts both in the U.K. and around the globe. Their close relationship also allowed detailed studies that have been helpful in the Trust’s rehabilitation work.

The World Owl Hall of Fame was established in 2006 as part of the International Festival of Owls to bring public recognition to the owls and humans who have done great things to make this world a better place for owls. It is judged by a panel of owl experts from four countries in the fields of research, education, rehabilitation, and conservation. Besides the Lady Gray’l Award for owls, there are also two awards given to humans.

For all of you who have ever picked apart an owl pellet, the man we have to thank for discovering the details of their formation will be receiving the Hall of Fame’s Special Achievement Award—like Georgie, on a posthumous basis. Dr. Gary Duke’s work on owl digestion still stands as the classic and most comprehensive work in the field.

Duke is perhaps better known by the general public for co-founding The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota in 1974. The Center has gone on to become an internationally renowned facility specializing in the medical care, rehabilitation, and conservation of raptors.

“Owls were his passion, his favorite bird,” says his widow, Maryann Duke. “He especially admired the great horned owl because he thought they were so brave and tough.” Dr. Duke passed away in 2006 at age 68. He resided in Shoreview, Minnesota.

The Hall of Fame’s Champion of Owls Award is given to someone who has made a broad geographical impact on owls in multiple fields, usually over a lifetime. Yet this year’s winner is the first person without a head of white hair to claim the award. Despite being 20 years younger than any other recipient, Dr. James Duncan, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, is highly deserving of the honor.

Duncan was involved in the planning of three international owl conferences, has published papers on 11 species of owls, and has studied great gray owls for 25 years. In his position with Manitoba Conservation, Duncan has created management and recovery programs for several owl species. He also has supervised several graduate students studying owls.

Yet you’ll also find this versatile man in school classrooms with his faithful sidekicks, Nemo the long-eared owl and Pepper the northern saw-whet owl, teaching grade schoolers about owls. Duncan also authored the book Owls of the World: Their Lives, Behavior and Survival, has served as a technical editor for other owl books and CDs, and has assisted several film crews.

Together with his wife Patsy he developed and coordinates the Manitoba nocturnal owl surveys, involving over 600 volunteers since 1991. “Other people pick up on his spirit…he’s an inspiration,” says Dr. Robert W. Nero, retired senior ecologist for Manitoba Conservation.

“On behalf of owls everywhere I’d like to personally thank Georgie, Gary, and Jim for giving a hoot and making this a better world for owls,” said Hall of Fame coordinator Karla Kinstler.

The World Owl Hall of Fame is sponsored by the World Owl Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, Global Owl Project, Raptor Education Group, Gray Owl Fund, and

For more information about the Hall of Fame go to


Additional contacts for interviews:

Director of the Global Owl Project, judge and sponsor:
David H. Johnson, (202) 360-0313,

Dr. James R. Duncan, (204) 945-7465 (work) or (204) 771-8345,

Maryanne Duke, (651) 484-4323,

Tony Warburton, 00 44 (0) 1229 717629,

Go back