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Feathers of European Owls: Insights into Species Ecology and Identification


By: Marian Cieślak(Author)

206 pages, colour photos, b/w illustrations, colour & b/w tables

Oriolus Forläg

Hardback | Aug 2017 | #237475 | ISBN-13: 9789197865227
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £49.99 $65/€57 approx

About this book

Language: English

Marian Cieślak (1950 – 2016) became one of the few researchers in Europe to commence with scientific study of bird feathers, and most especially – the feathers of birds of prey and owls. This resulted in the first guide to feathers published in Polish (in 1999). Presented there were baseline details on how to identify the feathers of selected bird species enjoying legal protection (mainly birds of prey and owls). In his publications, Marian Cieślak noted repeatedly how the identification of bird feathers was one of the least-developed areas of applied ornithology – and all the more so when set against, for example, flight identification, or the identification of calls, nests and eggs. This was therefore the inspiration for further research into feathers resulting in the release of another book – Feathers: Identification for Bird Conservation (Cieślak and Dul 2006); which was published in both Polish and English. In the years that followed, the research focus homed in on the ecology of owls, and in particular the relationship between biology, plumage and the moulting process.

Feathers of European Owls fills many gaps in current knowledge of owl feathers. The author not only describes the identification of feathers of the European owl species, but also presents relationships between feather morphology and the behaviour and ecology of this group of birds. These findings are largely based on the Author's original research, and his extensive collection of feathers.


Obituary   7
From the publishers   9
Introduction   11

Part A – Description of owl feathers   13
      Basic information on feathers   13
      Types of feather   13
      Wings   18
      The tail   21
      Specifc features of owl feathers   23
      Primaries   23
      Secondaries   25
      Rectrices (tail feathers)   26
      Other smaller feathers   27
      Abnormalities in feather numbers   32
      Owl feather dimorphism   34

Part B – The ecology of owls and their plumage   39
      B1. Analysis of owl silhouettes in flight   39
      B2. Wing-loading   44
      B3. Feather colouration and pattern   48
            The optimised distribution of pigment in the plumage of owls   51
            The optimised distribution of pigment in feathers   52
            The species-related variability in colouration pattern   53
            Aberrations in the colouring of owl plumage   58
                  Albinism and leucism   58
                  Melanism   61
      B4. The silent flight mechanisms in owls   62
            The diversity of silent flight mechanisms in European owl species   70
                  The auditory abilities of owls   70
                  Daily activity and type of diet   73
                  Audiles, generalists and visualisers   74
                  The silent flight mechanisms in different hunting strategies   77
            Silent flight and owls’ aviation capabilities   81
            Ecological isolation between owl species   83
      B5. Moulting strategies   87
            The effect of moulting on owls’ flying abilities   89
            The sequence of moulting   90
            The frequency of replacement of individual feathers   92
            Moult phenology in relation to breeding and migration   93
            How long does moulting a generation of feathers take?   95
            Feather grow rates   96
      B6. Why owls have developed a diastataxic wing type?   98
      B7. Stress bars    104
      B8. The bioindication of environmental pollution using owl feathers   110

Part C – Species review   113
      Western Barn Owl Tyto alba   113
      Eurasian Scops Owl Otus scops   116
      Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo   117
      Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus   119
      Northern Hawk-Owl Surnia ulula   121
      Eurasian Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum   124
      Little Owl Athene noctua   125
      Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa   127
      Ural Owl Strix uralensis   131
      Tawny Owl Strix aluco   133
      Long-eared Owl Asio otus   135
      Short-eared owl Asio flammeus   137
      Marsh Owl Asio capensis   139
      Boreal Owl (Tengmalm’s Owl) Aegolius funereus   141
Part D – Identifcation of feathers from among the European species of owl   143
      Variety in owl feathers   144
      A feather identifcation procedure   144
      Reasons for the presence of feathers   145
      Assigning species to groups   145
      Large owls   146
      Medium-sized owls   155
      Small owls   165

Ending   171
      Acknowledgments   171

References   173
Appendices   183

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