Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide

Owls of the WorldHeimo Mikkola

Christopher Helm/Bloomsbury, £35.00

This book will fascinate all bird lovers and particularly those interested in identifying these charismatic birds of prey. The author has studied owls and other birds of prey for almost 50 years, and counts himself as one of many ‘owlaholics’ who are obsessed with collecting owl images and artefacts. Perhaps this is why, on any page, there are spectacular colour photographs.

The 60-page introduction covers owl features such as nocturnal vision, hearing, silent flight, hunting and general behaviour. The rest of the book accounts for 249 species, covering identification, habitat, call, food, status and distribution. Obviously in such a specialist work there will be discussion on what constitutes a species, and although all 249 ‘species’ are photographed and described, Mikkola notes that DNA-sequencing data is, so far, only available to determine 150 of them – so work is still needed on over 100 more.

Since 75% of owl species are associated with dense and undisturbed forests, deforestation is a threat to a number of species. A table on longevity reveals that barn owls live for an average of 29 years while those in captivity live for 34 years.

With over 750 photographs from dozens of the world’s finest natural history photographers, Owls of the World is strongly recommended both as an outstanding resource for identification, and as a thing of beauty for one’s bookshelves.

 Alan Cadogan CBiol FSB