Owl Things Considered

Tropical screech owls and a piece of ferruginous pygmy in watercolor.
Tropical screech owls and ferruginous pygmy owls in watercolor.

Let me digress into more appetizing subjects, or away from less appetizing ones. How about owls? I’m up to my elbows in them at the moment, painting a field guide plate (Birds of Trinidad and Tobago). When this is done I’ll move on to the antbirds, a hugely diverse group. Owls hold a fascination for us, an elevated status; they are mythical. Why else is Athena the Greek goddess of wisdom represented by an owl? In fact the burrowing owl, Athene cunicularia, is named for her. How about the mysterious sounds in the dark at which we shiver, and then endow with supernatural power with our reptilian brains?

Recorded in Peru, December 2008, strange screams in the night, probably of owlish origin.

fearsome talons, tigers of the night.
fearsome talons for the tigers of the night.

In my studio are skins of tropical owls on loan from the American Museum of Natural History, and I’ve been using skins at SNOMNH as well. I can examine these specimens closely and see the intimate details of a bird evolved for life as a nocturnal predator.

Barn Owl facial disk edge. There are barn owls in Trinidad. Don't know if there are barns.
Barn owl facial disk, a hard edge for a soft parabolic reflector, helping the owl pick up faint sounds of prey in the dark. There are barn owls in Trinidad. No doubt there are barns, too.
Striped owl adult and juvenile, part of the larger plate. A work in progress.
Striped owl adult and juvenile side by side on the Trinidad and Tobago field guide plate, not quite finished but getting closer.
Barn owl contour feathers- the softness of a silent night flyer. Even the wing feathers are soft-edged to muffle their approach.
Barn owl contour feathers- the softness of a silent night flyer. Even the wing feathers are soft-edged to muffle their approach.

6 thoughts on “Owl Things Considered

  1. Mary says:

    Debby, your Owl paintings are stunning! It’s a shame they are so difficult to track down…for me, anyway. I’ve heard a Screech Owl only twice here in NC. The GHO often shows up before sunrise, only as a silohuette on my neighbor’s rooftop. Seeing them in captivity is entertaining but not nearly as exciting to see one in the wild! I envy the work you do :o)

  2. Becky says:

    Incredibly beautiful job on the tropic screeh owls — and I love the way their perches fade away — “owl things bright and beautiful.” Great job, as usual!

  3. fedegagge says:

    Hi my name is Federico and I`m from Uruguay in south america, your blog is one of the bests I’ve ever visited, and you drawings are so real and beautiful. You have inspired me to create my own blog about my passion, parrots. If you like, you can visit it (is written in spanish) http://www.lorosuruguay.wordpress.com maybe soon I`ll put some of the drawings I`ve been practising. Thank you

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