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for people who care about the West

The mystery of owls, revealed

A deep look at 53 owl species, their habitats, mating rituals and more.


Owls have long been the subject of myth and superstition. Are these mysterious, large-eyed, nocturnal creatures fearsome? Wise? Ghostly? But despite this history of fascination, human development has now put many owl species at risk: Deforestation and agriculture fragment their habitats, and pesticides pollute their diets.

A new illustrated natural history book highlights 53 owl species from around the world, organized by bioregion. (Owls are found on every continent except Antarctica.) Entries describe each owl’s appearance, habitat, mating habits, threats to its survival, and other distinguishing characteristics: Diminutive elf owls nest in woodpecker holes, for example, while the boreal owl’s courtship song can be heard from up to two miles away. Together, the text and images vividly show why owls have intrigued humans throughout the ages and how vital they are to the natural world.

The Enigma of the Owl: An Illustrated Natural History
By Mike Unwin and David Tipling
288 pages, hardcover: $40.
Yale University Press, 2017.