Readers’ wildlife pictures

April 15, 2012 • 11:55 am

There seem to be a lot of readers who like owls (I do, too!), and here are some nice shots from reader Mark (click to enlarge):

 Here’s a picture of me with an owl chick. The owls nested and hatched under my patio for the last three years, but didn’t hatch last year.

I asked Mark about the fate of the chick, and got this response and further photos:

That chick left the nest a few days before, but wasn’t yet flying. It had wandered into the yard. I picked it up and brought it back to the patio where I posed with it. Sometimes they got in the pool where I found them standing on the skimmer ledges. At first they threaten you, but seem unafraid. Sometimes the chicks are perched on the patio furniture, and they allow us to stroke their backs. One of the parents hit me in the head once. I’m pretty sure that they are Eastern Screech owls.

Birders, is he right?

I’ll append a quotation about owls from my favorite nature book. I’ve posted this before, but it’s appropriate (“little owls” are a species, Athena noctua, from the Old World):

A little owl’s legs are surprisingly thick and powerful for so small a bird.  They look slightly hairy, like an animal’s legs.  The whole bird looks completely out of proportion when perching, like a two-legged head.  One must try not to be anthropomorphic, yet it cannot be denied that little owls are very funny to watch.  In flight, they are just owls, but at rest they seem to be natural clowns.  They do not know it, of course. And that makes them much funner, for they always appear indignant, outraged, brimming over with choler.  There is nothing funny about their sharp claws and rending beak.  They are killers. That is what they are for.  But whenever I see one close, in a tree, I laugh aloud.

–J. A. Baker, The Peregrine

Here’s a Little Owl from tinyinc:

Photo by Dean Bertolsilj

Don’t forget to send me your very best animal or plant photos.

30 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife pictures

    1. Not sure where the reputation came from, but it goes back a long way. The owl was a symbol of Athena, goddess of skill and cunning. The owl also appeared on many different coins minted for Athens, and is the mascot fo Rice university.

      Most cultures in Attica also associated Athena with snakes. That’s probably a holdover from Minoan and Mycenaean times.

      1. I’d guess the reputation originally came from the eyes. They just look wise, and the Greeks noticed that long ago.

    2. I do believe that owls are only regarded as wise by a smallish number of cultures. The most common association across many cultures & eras is to do with death & bad omens. I’m only familiar with UK owls but their mating call exchange & absolutely silent flight in the dark leads me to believe that if I had been born in ages past I would have shivered at the mere mention of owls & stayed away from graveyards because of these white ghosts…

      1. I wonder whether their association with wisdom is purely a consequence of their association with Athena, goddess of wisdom among other things.

        Seeing them as bad omens (probably because of nocturnal habits and “spooky” cries) seems to be more widespread. My grandmother used to tell me that hearing an Athene noctua at night meant somebody was about to die in the village (this in the central Alps). In rural Mexico I encountered the exact same superstition regarding the related Athene cunicularia, not sure if because of Spanish influences or a surviving prehispanic belief.

        1. Does anybody know if there was a similar belief in Spain or Portugal? That would perhaps explain the presence of the exact same superstition in Mexico. Just wondering.

  1. These are certainly screech owls, but I don’t really know how to tell a fledgling eastern s.o. from a western.

  2. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s an eastern screech owl. The western variety has a darker bill, and its range is pretty much the western third of the U.S. The call is different as well.

    1. You’re probably right, but we don’t have much to go on. Bill darkness is about it.

      “range is pretty much the western third of the U.S. ”

      But we don’t know where Mark lives, do we? If he thought they were easterns, that does suggest he lives in the east. What if he lives in Utah but only owns the old Peterson eastern birds book?

      “The call is different as well.”

      But we don’t know what these birds sound like, so that’s no help.

  3. They certainly look like Eastern Screech-Owls to me. Additionally, it looks like the middle bird in the shot of the three fledglings and the following bird are red color morphs.

      1. That, and knowing that they know how to use their talons to good effect. I remember one clip of an owl from the WEIT site, with owl stretchin out his legs towards the camera, unfurling his claws. Absolutely mesmerizing.

    1. Funny you find them cat-like. You certainly aren’t the only one. The chinese word for owl is mao tou ying, which means “cat-headed hawk” (or, eagle?).

  4. And all the words I know for ‘owl’ are mellifluous and attractively onomatopoeic: ‘owl’ itself, English Lake District dialect – ‘hulet’; French – ‘hibou’; Latin – ulula (tawny owl). Lovely!

    1. Same for “Eule” in German. But the exception may be “gufo” (most owls) and “civetta” (Athene noctua) in Italian.

  5. I wonder why Professor Coyne didn’t come to the GAC in Melbourne. It was great. He should be there the next time, and so should Steven Pinker, who was, by far, the most cited and quoted person (well, besides Hitch).

  6. Have you forgotten about the video of the owl and the pussycat who are “best friends”? Jerry posted a link a year or two ago.

  7. Looks like a screech owl. Their call scares s#!t out of me (in the middle of the night, camping in a lonely spot.)

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