Admit it.  You’ve always been intrigued by owls.   If the sight of an owl taking flight ever took your breathe away, you would not be alone!  

Owls have been part of the myths and legends of many cultures for almost as long as there have been records.   You can find them in the writings and art of the ancient Mayans and Egyptians, as examples.  

Today there are roughly 220 species of owls scattered across every continent except for Antartica. There is still so much to learn about them.

Generally solitary and nocturnal, they can be challenging to observe and study.  So to help us all to learn more about these fascinating creatures, here are a few resources that will likely only whet your appetite for more.


Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl

by Jonathan C. Slaght

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux,  August 2020

Have you ever toyed with the idea of striking out into some exotic location to finally study that little known species that has so thoroughly captivated your mind?  If so, you will likely enjoy Jonathan Slaght’s adventures to find and track the endangered Blakiston’s fish owl (Bubo blakistoni).

Slaght works alongside two local ornithologists, both named Sergey, in the remote Russian Far Eastern territory known as Primorye.  (It’s interesting that “Primorye” sounds so much like “primordial!”)  Together, they spend several seasons in the field, and each season introduces new frustrations and discoveries.  

Slaght’s narrative has a lot of forward momentum despite the repetitive and sometimes slogging nature typical of fieldwork.  He weaves together a tale involving locals who still harbor Soviet-era distrust of Americans, excursions in subzero temperatures, sketchy campsites, lots of vodka and nature’s unpredictability.  

One can only hope that the amount of critical acclaim and deserved attention this book is receiving translates into a better outcome for the fish owls.

Why you should not miss this one:

  • reads like a novel – engaging characters; you want to know what will happen next
  • focus on conservation and fieldwork challenges
  • some interesting revelations about fish owl behavior


The House of Owls

by Tony Angell

Published by Yale University Press,  April 2015

Naturalists often strive to document and illustrate their favorite species, noting appearance, behaviors, interactions, feeding, pair bonding, and so much more.  Following this custom Tony Angell’s work sets a high bar. Twenty-five years of careful observation and the occasional participation in owl rehabilitation are evident.  The descriptions and illustrations evoke an intimacy with and empathy for the owls that few others have achieved. 

The first chapter details years of observations of owl families nesting in a tree box so close to the house that Angell realizes the owls are also watching him. Angell lightheartedly reports how a female western screech owl encourages a less-than-enthusiastic male to begin hunting.  He notes how they defend themselves against aggressive crows and how owlets are sheltered from drowning during intense downpours.

Later chapters overview other North American owl species. Angell begins with a personal account of an interaction with each, followed by information about their range and habitat, food preferences, vocalizations, courtship and nesting, threats and conservation, and other vital statistics.   

This book may be best enjoyed one chapter or section at a sitting.  It’s a book to savor, not necessarily to devour. 

Why you should not miss this one:

  • the illustrations – so beautifully drawn, their faces are individualized and expressive  
  • part personal journal, part field guide
  • detailed coverage of the North American species


If you want to explore this group further, consider the following field guides:

Hawks and Owls of Eastern North America

by Chris Early

Published by Firefly Books, March 2012

Field Guide to Owls of California and the West

by Hans J. Peeters 

Published by University of California Press, October 2007

Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean

by Scott Weidensaul

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2015


Photo courtesy of:


For an up-close view of these creatures, check out these videos:

The Eagle Owl:  The Lord of the Night

Youtube video posted by New Atlantis Full Documentaries

52 minutes — Since it was filmed at night on the Iberian Peninsula, it is often difficult to see but worth the effort. 

10 Most Beautiful Owls on Planet Earth

Youtube video posted by 4 Ever Green

approximately 10 minutes — Yes, the ads are annoying, but it is a beautiful compilation.  My favorite is the Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata).




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