The Enigma of the Owl: An Illustrated Natural History

Yale Univ. Feb. 2017. 288p. photos by David Tipling. index. ISBN 9780300222739. $40. NAT HIST
OrangeReviewStarThere is no shortage of good materials on owls, perennially popular animals. Here is a most worthy addition. Prolific travel and nature writer Unwin (Why Do Tigers Have Stripes?) surveys 53 of the 240 species of owls in the world. In six chapters, he covers birds from North America, Latin America, Eurasia, Africa, South Asia, Australasia, and the Oceanic Islands. Because of this volume's heft (9.5" x 11.5") and preponderance of spectacular color photographs (more than 200) by Tipling, whose images graced Mark Cocker's Birds & People, one might dismiss this as a fatuous coffee-table book. But the text is meaty, with information on each species: its distribution, size, habits, conservation status, appearance, population estimates, etc. Furthermore, an introductory section details owl-related folklore and superstitions, food habits, plumage characters, and more. Included are lists of websites and pertinent organizations.
VERDICT This authoritative, beautiful title will appeal to anyone interested in nature, especially birders, and the legions of lay owl fanciers.
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