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Twelve Owls

Twelve Owls

Laura Erickson
Illustrations by Betsy Bowen
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 80
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  • Book Info
    Twelve Owls
    Book Description:

    The owls of Minnesota have found the perfect spokeswoman in this book, which is as charming as it is informative. Written with wit and a remarkable command of bird lore by Laura Erickson, well known to public radio listeners and birdwatchers everywhere, Twelve Owls also features enchanting pictures, from the long view to up-close detail, by award-winning artist Betsy Bowen.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7876-1
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Artist’s Note
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    If you are reading these words in the United States or Canada, there is an excellent chance that a wild owl is roosting or hunting or incubating eggs or brooding chicks less than ten miles from you at this very moment. If you are in Minnesota, chances are an owl is less than half that distance away from you. Of the twelve species of owls that can be found in the state, two are quite rare, four are primarily winter visitors, and another is declining, but the others are widespread year-round.

    Owls are hardly abundant, but they are widely distributed,...

  5. Northern Saw-whet Owl
    (pp. 6-11)

    The October night was cold and still. The birder walked in the beam of a flashlight along a path through the woods to a tiny plywood shack that serves as a bird banding field station. The shelves were strewn with data notebooks, a few reference books, necklace-like strings of aluminum bands of various sizes, calipers, rulers, special pliers, and coffee mugs. Here and there, looking completely out of place, were plush animals that looked like Beanie Baby owls. Suddenly one of them turned its head and looked the birder straight in the eye. With a start she realized that these...

  6. Eastern Screech-Owl
    (pp. 12-15)

    Two Eastern Screech-Owls were sleeping side by side, wings touching, on a frozen Valentine’s Day morning. Their feathers were fluffed against the cold, their eyes closed, and their heads tilted down a bit as if resting their chins on their chests. It was bright and sunny outside, but inside the roost box it was peaceful and dark.

    They were a well-matched duo. Like most Eastern Screech-Owl pairs, they were the same age, both almost four years old. They were skilled hunters who had spent so much time together that they knew exactly what the other one was up to even...

  7. Burrowing Owl
    (pp. 16-19)

    The photographer was visiting an active prairie dog town in the Black Hills of South Dakota, snapping photo after photo of prairie dog antics. The little rodents were endlessly entertaining, but she seemed vaguely dissatisfied, often looking beyond the prairie dogs in search of something else. Finally, she spotted what she was looking for: a five-ounce owl sitting at the edge of a prairie dog burrow, its legs improbably long, its brilliant yellow eyes glittering in the sun.

    Suddenly the bird looked sharply down and pounced on a big, fat dung beetle, popping it into its mouth. The photographer took...

  8. Boreal Owl
    (pp. 20-25)

    The January predawn twilight was quiet and still except for the occasional creaking of a birch straining against the bitter cold. A tiny owl sat on a branch, quiet but not still, her head turning every which way, her eyes and ears straining to detect the slightest movement or sound. She hadn’t eaten in almost two days, and hunger made her desperate. A sudden squeak caught her attention. She dropped her gaze just in time to see a deer mouse dart across the shallow depression in the snow at the base of the tree. She plunged at top speed, grabbed...

  9. Barn Owl
    (pp. 26-31)

    In August 1995, a small band of Minnesota birders were riding in two vans along an Arizona country road lined with soybean fields, en route between Green Valley and Madera Canyon. The sun had just risen, and the soft morning light filled them with hope. They would see at least a few good birds before breakfast back in Green Valley.

    One of them spied what looked like a dead raptor dangling from a fence and called out. The golden back spangled with silvery flecks instantly identified it as a Barn Owl. Most of the birders had never seen a living...

  10. Short-eared Owl
    (pp. 32-37)

    The Short-eared Owl sat on her nest on a warm morning in late May, incubating two eggs and brooding two chicks. She had a pleasantly full belly—last night her mate had delivered an amazing seven voles. All but one were quite small, but even a tiny vole can provide three or four mouthfuls for newly hatched owlets, and the two chicks that had hatched so far were just four and two days old. After they had eaten their fill, there were plenty of leftovers for her.

    It was a clear day, but she was shaded from the morning sun...

  11. Long-eared Owl
    (pp. 38-43)

    During the last week of October 1991, a storm system so huge that it was nicknamed “the Perfect Storm” raged over the Atlantic Ocean. The magnitude of the system blocked the normal west-to east storm patterns over the eastern half of the United States, forcing a huge low-pressure system from the Gulf of Mexico to rush north instead of east. Between October 31 and November 3, the resulting storm dumped 28.4 inches of snow on the Twin Cities and 36.9 inches of snow on Duluth in what Minnesotans will long call “the Halloween Storm.”

    So many meteorological records were set...

  12. Northern Hawk Owl
    (pp. 44-47)

    A large van filled with birders moved slowly up and down country roads near Meadowlands, Minnesota. The birders stared out the windows, their eyes intently focused on every treetop. Suddenly someone yelled, “Northern Hawk Owl!” The owl was little more than a dot, at least a hundred yards away atop a black spruce. For most of them, this wasn’t just an unsatisfying view of a bird new to their life list—they weren’t even sure the dot was a bird. But the driver pulled to the side of the road, and they piled out while the leader set up his...

  13. Barred Owl
    (pp. 48-53)

    Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?

    Birdwatchers often use mnemonic tricks to help them recognize birdcalls. In most cases, people don’t settle on just one choice. Does a White-throated Sparrow sing “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” or “Oh, sweet Canada, Canada, Canada”? Does a flying goldfinch call out “perchickory, perchickory” or “potato chip, potato chip”? We choose phrases that suggest the rhythm of the notes whether or not they make meaningful sense. Even though “Hey, sweetie!” fits both the rhythm of a Black-capped Chickadee’s whistled song and the context in which it’s used, many birders still remember the...

  14. Great Horned Owl
    (pp. 54-59)

    “Mommy, look! There’s a cat up a tree!” They were overdue at the child’s grandparents, and there was no safe way to slow down on I-35, but the woman glanced out the window and saw the silhouette on a large limb in the snowy woodlot as they raced past. Neither she nor her son ever realized the animal they saw was not a cat but a Great Horned Owl.

    This owl’s upright feather tufts where a cat’s ears would be, along with its general size and shape, produce a catlike silhouette, and its large yellow eyes are very catlike. Whether...

  15. Snowy Owl
    (pp. 60-63)

    One of the most famous owls in the world is a fictional character: Harry Potter’s Hedwig. In J. K. Rowling’s novels, Hedwig is a female, but the birds chosen to portray her in the movies have all been males. Healthy female Snowy Owls can tip the scales at over five pounds, while males weigh less than four pounds—a hefty difference that was especially significant in the early films when young Daniel Radcliffe had to carry Hedwig on his arm. Adult male Snowy Owls have another advantage in a movie about a magical world: their gleaming white plumage looks striking...

  16. Great Gray Owl
    (pp. 64-68)

    The owl perched on a tiny tamarack branch, staring at one spot on the ground below, his ears, hidden behind huge facial disks, listening for the tiniest squeak or rustle beneath the snow. The birder pulled over, got out of the car, and stood transfixed. The owl looked up and met her eyes but within seconds turned to gaze at the ground again.

    A smooth, thick layer of new snow covered the field, and the birder couldn’t see anything different in the spot where the owl was looking than anywhere else, but the owl continued staring. A logging truck roared...

  17. backmatter
    (pp. 69-69)