Review: Enigma of the Owl

PG 46: Burrowing Owl drives an American Badger away from its nesting burrow.

The Enigma of the Owl: An illustrated natural history
By Mike Unwin and David Tipling
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press, 2017
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0300222734
ISBN-13: 978-0300222739

I find myself at a loss to describe this lovely book. So I’m going to quote from Amazon:

“A rare invitation into the mysterious lives of owls around the world, with spectacularly revealing photographs and fascinating details. Perhaps no other creature has so compelling a gaze as the owl. Its unblinking stare mesmerizes; its nocturnal lifestyle suggests secrets and mystery. This lavishly illustrated book celebrates owls from every corner of the world and offers abundant details on fifty-three of the most striking and interesting species, from the tiny Elf Owl of southwestern American deserts to the formidable Blakiston’s Fish Owl, the largest of all owls.

Mike Unwin has long studied and admired these remarkable birds from cold northern forests to tropical rivers and beyond. He explains how owls evolved into the supreme feathered predators of the night, and he examines their breeding and hunting behaviors, unusual calls, and the cultural myths and superstitions that surround different species. More than two hundred dramatic color photographs in the wild, taken or selected by David Tipling, capture the wondrous beauty of each owl and the drama of life in its own home region.” – Amazon

The species are arranged by Bioregion and an introduction to the region comes before the detailed owl entry. Each owl entry includes several large color photographs and one or two pages of text describing the owl and its behavior with an emphasis on the interesting and the unusual.  For instance the entry on the Snowy Owl begins: “Inuit call this bird Ookpik, and at one time they used its feathers to fletch their hunting arrows.” – pg 31

Table of Contents:

  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • North America
  • Central & South America
  • Eurasia
  • Africa
  • Southern Asia & Australasia
  • Oceanic Islands
  • Glossary
  • Further Information
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
  • Picture Credits

I would buy this as a present for any owl enthusiast. The pictures alone are worth it. This is a gorgeous book even though it did not answer the question of how Burrowing owls survive the winter. — Jenny

Owl pg 139
PG 139: This species [Eurasian Pygmy Owl] may plunge right through snow in pursuit of rodent prey beneath the crust.

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