Celebrating in the Wundergarten: An Owl Called David Hockney

“AN OWL CALLED DAVID HOCKNEY” is an artwork the author commissioned talented Alabama artist Abraham Banks Warren to create before he headed back to West Elementary School in Cullman.

Whooo, some readers are asking is David Hockney? In the TREE MUSEUM, the nationally accredited arboretum, at Sportsman Lake Park (Cullman County), David Hockney is a Barred Owl whooo lives in the Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary. D.H. looks something like a certain, talented, world-famous artist.

David Hockney, the British-American painter, printmaker, stage designer and photographer, has been described as looking “owl-like.” That account owes a lot to his signature, round, owl-rimmed eyeglasses. Considering the amazing ability the artist has, to see the world from perspectives most of us simply do not, or cannot, Mr. Hockney seems to have gifts of vision like an owl.

Hockney has the enviable distinction of having created the most expensive artwork by a living artist sold at auction. His 1972 masterpiece, “Portrait of an Artist,” sold for $90 million in 2018.

Owls, most of whom have a superb sense of sight, can spot a mouse meal as much as a half-mile away. Also, owls are like many mothers who seem to have eyes in the back of their heads—owls have the ability to pivot their neck 270 degrees.

AN OWL CALLED DAVID HOCKNEY is a type, Barred Owl, not known for its musical ability. “Although the Barred Owl is not technically a songbird,” according to allaboutbirds.org, “its distinctive ‘Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?’ call functions as a song…This call carries well through the woods and is fairly easy to imitate.”

Here are some other FUN FACTS ABOUT OWLS from The Audubon Society (Audubon.org):

  • “Many owl species have asymmetrical ears. When located at different heights on the owl’s head, their ears are able to pinpoint the location of sounds in multiple directions. Ready, aim, strike.”
  • “A group of owls is called a parliament. This originates from C.S. Lewis’ description of a meeting of owls in THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA.”
  • “Owls hunt other owls. Great Horned Owls are the top predator of the smaller Barred Owl.” Please be careful AN OWL CALLED DAVID HOCKNEY.
  • “The tiniest owl in the world is the Elf Owl, which is 5 inches tall and weighs about 1 1/2 ounces. The largest North American owl, in appearance, is the Great Gray Owl, which is up to 32 inches tall.”
  • “The Northern Hawk Owl can detect—primarily by sight—a vole to eat up to a half mile away.”
  • “Barn Owls swallow their prey whole—skin, bones, and all—and they eat up to 1,000 mice each year.”
  • “Not all owls hoot! Barn Owls make hissing sounds, the Eastern Screech-Owl whinnies like a horse, and Saw-whet Owls sound like, well, an old whetstone sharpening saw. Hence the name.”

“AN OWL CALLED DAVID HOCKNEY” is an artwork (see this page) I commissioned talented Alabama artist Abraham Banks Warren to create before he headed back to West Elementary School in Cullman this week to begin the fall semester. Abe salutes the famous painter, David Hockney, and the world-renowned artist’s namesake owl of the Tree Museum.

Fish live in schools and owls live in parliaments; however, it’s owls that are known for being wise. Fish are mostly known for being tasty and as supporting cast members for this summer’s Disney movie, “The Little Mermaid.” The Ancients, both Roman and Greek, used the owl as their symbol for wisdom, possibly because these birds are nocturnal and can see things most humans cannot see at night.

This charming, nursery rhyme shares another reason owls seem to have the wisdom thing:


A wise old owl sat in an oak.

The more he heard,

The less he spoke.

The less he spoke,

The more he heard.

Why aren’t we all like

That wise old bird?

AN OWL CALLED DAVID HOCKNEY is a Barred Owl. They live in mature forests and are threatened by deforestation. Here are other types of owls in North America:

  • BARN OWLS which have excellent vision and the best ability to locate prey by sound of any animal ever tested.
  • BURROWING OWLS live underground and hunt on the ground during the day.
  • EASTERN SCREECH-OWLS, which are declining in number due to deforestation, are monogamous, breeding as a devoted couple together for life.
  • GREAT GRAY OWLS have a wingspan stretching up to five feet and are one of the largest owls in the U.S.
  • BOREAL OWLS live in “boreal (Artic ) forests” and the female is often twice the size of the male.
  • ELF OWLS are tiny birds who live in the desert scrub.
  • SHORT-EARED OWLS live in marshy wetlands with their populations declining by 65% since 1970. These daylight hunters suffer from loss of homes and pesticide poisoning.

AN OWL CALLED DAVID HOCKNEY needs a sheltering home in the Tree Museum. We are looking at building instructions for owl houses. According to author Teo Spengler at gardeningknowhow.com, “Your ‘OWL BOX’ plans do not need to be fancy to be effective, but you’ll need to figure out how to build an owl house that is the right size to be a nest-substitute for the type of owl you hope to attract to the garden. Obtain information on the size of your owl species before you begin your owl box plans.

“For barn owls, a simple wooden box about 38 by 18 by 12 inches provides adequate room for a pair of owls and their young. For other species, the size will vary. Always use untreated wood such as fir, cedar, or pine.” (We have tall poplars and pines in the Sportsman Lake Tree Museum to support owl houses, but for optimal placement and more building instructions check out Teo Spengler’s entire article, “Creating Owl Boxes: How to Build an Owl House.”)

TO HELP AN OWL CALLED DAVID HOCKNEY in the TREE MUSEUM as we build owl boxes and lessen the need for pesticides, checks may be mailed to: Sportsman Lake Tree Museum c/o Cullman County Master Gardeners, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, 402 Arnold St. NE, Suite G-1, Cullman, AL 35055.

CELEBRATING IN THE WUNDERGARTEN is a culinary storytelling series with recipes imagined to have been enjoyed in Colonial Cullman in the 1880s. Frau Ruehl, the resourceful heroine of the “WUNDERGARTEN” folktale would have cooked a version of this hearty pie back before the American owl population was threatened.


(Source: montanaoutdoor.com)


  • 1 good-sized cooked hoot owl, boned and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 10-oz. pack frozen broccoli, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 10 1/2-oz. can cream of hoot owl soup
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Warm tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups hoot owl broth
  • 1 cup grated rat cheese


  1. Mix the chopped owl, celery, onion, cooking oil, cooked broccoli, sour cream, hoot owl soup, salt and pepper together. Then you let them sit while you and the boys play “Never beat your Mother with a Great Big Stick.” Be sure you don’t play more than six choruses.
  2. Roll all of this stuff into the warm tortillas and place them in a baking dish. Then pour the hoot owl broth over them.
  3. Cook all of this stuff in a 325F oven for 20 minutes, or three choruses of “Dirty Me, Dirty Me, Oh How I Hate Myself.” Make sure the onions are done.
  4. Then the last 5 minutes of cooking, place the grated rat cheese on top. Dish out the warm tortillas and hot sauce.

Now then, if the moon is in the “get gone” and the wind blows in snuffs, there ain’t goin’ to be no hoot.” (Montana Outdoor attributes its version of this recipe to hungrymonster.com)


Find all columns in this series at www.cullmantribune.com/tag/celebrating-in-the-wundergarten.