Maybe it’s that piercing gaze that makes owls so compelling. The owl is the only bird with eyes in the front, not the side, of its head. In many of the photos collected in The Enigma of the Owl (published by Yale University Press), owls appear to stare straight at the viewer, perhaps with curiosity, maybe fixing their eyes on their next pray. With text by nature writer Mike Unwin, The Enigma of the Owl features 200 color photos taken or selected by noted wildlife photographer David Tipling. Tipling, who is based in Norfolk, England, has photographed bird species around the world. The images in this new book show how owls have adapted to a variety of ecosystems, including forests, deserts, steppes, arctic regions and prairies. Organized geographically, the book is a worldwide guide to how owls live, hunt, feed and breed.
The owls featured range widely in size, adaptive coloring and habitat. We see tiny dwarf owl perched on a branch and the Eurasian eagle owl, which is big enough to hunt foxes, some northern spotted owls, whose habit of nesting in conifers has made them vulnerable to habitat loss due to logging, and an owl peeping from a hole in a cactus. Some of the most dramatic photos in the book show owls in mid-flight. One night shot of an owl with its talons out, about to snag a moth, demonstrates another part of the bird’s mystery: its crepuscular hunting habits. Unwin and Tipling are not sentimental. While the book references the spooky myths and legends about their subject, they celebrate the species’ predatory skills, scrappy toughness and beauty. The book is, you might say, a hoot.
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How To Land Photo Assignments from Audubon Magazine (for PDN subscribers; login required)