A source for the composition could be Cornelis Bloemaert's engraving after Hendrick Bloemaert, see M. Roethlisberger, Abraham Bloemaert and his Sons, Paintings and Prints, Doornspijk, 1993, I, p. 445, no. H.7, and II, no. H.7. That print has as a rubric: 'Wat staet ghij op dees wl en siet, Is het u Broer en kent g'hem niet'. Roethlisberger explains this as a joke meaning 'you are a kin of this stupid bird and you do not recognise it', or more obviously, just as an owl attracts other birds so a fool attracts other fools.
In the print and in the present work, the owl is on a perch to which it is tied, to act as a decoy bird; it will be mobbed by other birds. In the present work two men are depicted in the middle distance, beside the portable bird cage which has transported the owl.