Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Two books on owls

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird books Updated: February 10, 2013 - 11:44 PM

Owls of the World, a Photographic Guide, Heimo Mikkola, Fireside Books Ltd, hard cover, 510 pages, heavily illustrated, with maps, explanatory text for each of the 249 owls species covered, index, and suggestions for further reading.

Someone has seen each of the owls shown in this book, obvious by the photos (and the museum specimens used when photos of live birds could not be found). I wonder if anyone has seen them all? Owls are found world-wide, except for Antarctica. Two-thirds of the species live in the southern hemisphere. Most are forest-dwellers, susceptible to the rampant deforestation seen today. Many species are threatened.

 

From the owl photos you can see that, basically, an owl is an owl is an owl. They are different, however, in size, coloration, food habits, and habitat preferences. Distribution of some species might be surprising. The Burrowing Owl, for instance, occasionally seen in Minnesota, and fairly easily found on prairies to our west, is resident into South America all the way to the tip of the continent. 

 

Our Great Horned Owl can be found in South America. The range of the Great Gray Owl, eagerly sought in northern Minnesota by birders seeking to fill life lists, has a range that stretches across Scandinavia and Russia. Snowy Owls, making a small incursion south from their polar range this year, are circumpolar in distribution. 

 

Owls have long been regarded as omens of impending ill fortune, if not death, according to the author. Those low or screaming voices coming from the forest were not welcomed. Today, Mikkola says, we should welcome owl calls as evidence of their continued presence. It is the silent forest that speaks of ill fortune.

 

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Twelve Owls, Laura Erickson and Betsy Bowen, University of Minnesota Press, soft cover, 68 pages.This book on owls is local, its Minnesota focus but one of several ways this book so charmingly differs from a purely scientific, world-wide outlook. 

 

Two of our most accomplished artists -- Laura Erickson, Duluth writer, and Betsy Bowen, Grand Marais artist -- have combined talents to give us "Twelve Owls," a guide to the owls native to our state. 

 

The artwork, from cover throughout, could be deceiving, tagging this book as a "picture book" meant for young readers. Hardly. The beautiful illustrations compliment the highly informative text. 

 

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