The Splendor of Owls

by MHKLibrary Staff

The Splendor of Owls

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

Owls have long fascinated me.  I often hear them, particularly in the early evening, as birds of a pair will call back and forth to each other.  In fact, one summer several years ago, I used to see the same pair fly overhead just as darkness approached each evening.  I learned later that these are barred owls, which can have a wingspan as long as 44 inches and a body length of up to 22 inches.  Since that time, I’ve heard those repeated calls in my neighborhood, especially during winter months.  And I’m occasionally lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them through the trees.

For those as interested as I am, the library has some impressive books about owls, and those books are not just for adults.  The Children’s Department, for example, has some fantastic selections, filled with photographs that will delight young people.  Birds of Prey by Claire Llewellyn, which is part of the excellent Kingfisher Readers series, offers exquisite in-flight photographs of hawks, eagles, and owls.  The simple text describes feeding habits and locales of the many birds of prey.  This is an excellent introduction to the many species.

Hoot, Owl! by Shelby Alinsky is a nicely done volume that is part of the National Geographic series for kids.  This book is a great little introduction to snowy owls that not only provides dramatic close-ups of the owls, but also lists the vocabulary words found inside the book.

Baby Owl by Aubrey Lang is about the hatching and growth of a great horned owlet.  Young readers follow the feeding of the owlet by parent birds, and learn how the owl learns to fly and to hunt for itself.  The text concludes with a list of little known facts about owls.  These books can all be found in Animals Neighborhood of the library’s children’s room.

The adult collection also offers a number of superb books about owls.  The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar by Martin Windrow is just such a book.  Windrow is a British writer who specialized in books about the military.  While recuperating from a skydiving accident some years ago, he told his falcon-expert brother he’d like a pet.  His brother gave him a little owl who turned out to be rather difficult.  Later, Windrow received a female owl, a bird he named Mumble, who became an amiable companion for several years.  So, Windrow’s book is a tale of the two companions who develop a closeness no one expected.  Mumble even offered to share her diet of young chicks with her buddy.

Yet another writer, Tony Angell, shared his tale of owls in a book entitled The House of Owls.   Angell’s book details a period of several years during which he and his family closely observed pairs of western screech owls who nested near his country home.  During that time, Angell became something of an expert on the lives and behavior of the owls, he and kept a journal of what he learned.  His book also contains remarkable pencil illustrations of the behaviors he observed.  This is a truly inspiring book.

While it does have some nice photographs of owls, R.D. Lawrence’s Owls: The Silent Fliers is devoted more to species found in North America.  Descriptive essays are devoted to each of 19 species, and each essay also has a table of measurements as well as a range map.  Want to know what a specific variety favors in a habitat or what is desired prey for feeding?  This book carefully describes each in detail, and also has an afterword that lists parasites that threaten owls.  There is even an anatomical chart which labels the parts of the owl’s body.

One of the more attractive of the owl books is a recent arrival to the adult collections.  The Enigma of the Owl by Mike Unwin and David Tipling is described as “an illustrated natural history.” This is truly a beautiful book, one to be treasure by all bird lovers.  It has over 200 unbelievable photographs that will dazzle any reader’s eye.  It also offers an amazing array of behaviors related to the particular geography in which each of the species lives.  This has everything you might want to learn and will make those evening owl calls or sightings even more mesmerizing.