Angell (Puget Sound Through An Artist’s Eye, 2010, etc.) combines his skills as a naturalist and illustrator in this chronicle of a family of screech owls that nested in the backyard of his home and became part of his extended family; it’s followed by an account of the unique characteristics of the species.
In 1969, the author and his family moved to a Seattle suburb. He built an owl nesting box strategically placed outside his bedroom window, from which to observe the owls, beginning with their extended courtship rituals in February (when the male perched on the nesting box and called to attract a female) to egg-laying in April and hatching in May. He recounts an incident when the male owl failed to heed his chicks’ begging calls for food, prompting the female to fly out of the nest and knock him off his perch in an adjoining tree. Angell accompanies anecdotes about the owls he observes with illustrations—e.g., a series of drawings showing an owl descending on prey. For more than 25 years, the family observed five different pairs of owls who nested in the box and produced about 50 young. The author gives a solid overview of the 217 species of owls. Their fossil record dates back 23 million years, and their sizes range from ounces to 10 pounds. The author attributes their success as predators to their keen hearing, which enables them to hunt in relative darkness. In one illustration, he shows a great gray owl locating a small mammal covered by a blanket of snow. Angell also reminds us that the owls he loves have been cultural icons throughout human history, famous as companions of the Greek goddess Athena and even Harry Potter.
A charming personal account, accompanied by nearly 100 illustrations, that underscores how owls and other birds enrich our lives.