Owls have always featured prominently in the mythology and folklore of a variety of cultures. These mysterious nocturnal creatures are thought to be symbols of wisdom, omens of death, and bringers of prophecy, and they have intrigued humankind since the earliest times.
To the ornithologist, of course, owls are simply birds of prey that are supremely adapted to hunting after dark. Equipped with extraordinary sensory perception that allows them to operate in complete darkness, they have evolved an impressive variety of forms. Common to all are the hooked bill and needle-sharp talons weapons every bit as lethal as those of eagles and other diurnal raptors. Among the owl's unusual features are flight feathers with unzipped barbs that effectively silence its approach, and ears placed asymmetrically on the head, allowing it to calculate distance in the vertical as well as the horizontal plane and thus make pinpoint accurate strikes in pitch darkness by hearing alone.
A lavish celebration of these compelling birds, A Parliament of Owls looks at fifty of the most striking and interesting owl species around the world. It paints detailed portraits of characters as diverse as the Snowy Owl, which captures lemmings on the Arctic tundra, and the Burrowing Owl, which lives in dusty hollows beneath the South American pampas.
Mike Unwin, who has watched and admired owls all over the world, captures the essence of each species, while explaining the unique natural history that has made these silent assassins the most effective feathered predators of darkness. Along the way he describes a fascinating range of breeding and hunting behaviour, the unusual calls that have given rise to so much superstition, and the cultural impact of owls around the world.
A stunning range of photographs, taken and compiled by David Tipling, one of Britain's foremost bird photographers, captures the beauty of each species and the drama of the landscapes they inhabit.
Please note, this is published for the North American market by Yale University Press under the title The Enigma of the Owl.
Mike Unwin is the author of non-fiction books for both children and adults, specialising in wildlife, travel and conservation. He also writes for the Independent, Wanderlust, Travel Africa, Bird Watching and BBC Wildlife. Mike's awards include the BBC Wildlife/Bradt Travel Guides Travel Writer of the Year (2000) and the British Guild of Travel Writers Best Overseas Feature (2008).
David Tipling is one of the world's most widely published wildlife photographers, renowned for his artistic images of birds. His many accolades include a coveted European Nature Photographer of the Year Award (2002), for work on Emperor Penguins.