North End Phrags Get Whacked!
Monday Morning Mystery 021422

Monday Mystery Answered

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On Monday I asked,

In a recent "Bird Watcher" column, readers talked about their favorite non-field-guide birding books.

One reader praised "Owl Babies, " by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson.

That got me to thinking: What kind of owl are the mom and babies.

Babies are pictured above, mom in flight below.

Jukie McCall gave a comprehensive answer:

While the author is from Northern Ireland (which only has 3 species of owl), the illustrator, Patrick Benson, appears to be from southeast England. I found a quote from him in which he said, "I am very interested in natural history so I had a good idea of what the owlets might look like and also how to visualize the woods where they lived. I was brought up on a farm and used to spend hours roaming around the woods and fields, climbing trees and discovering the wonders of nature. I also like fishing, and particularly fishing at night, so again I know what the countryside can look and feel like after dark."

So I do think he based his illustrations on an owl species familiar to him. Looking at the available options for England, I believe we're looking at another Tawny Owl situation. Had author Martin Waddell chosen to focus on a species found in Northern Ireland, the options would have been Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl, and Short-eared Owl.

Of those three, I suppose one could make an argument for Short-eared Owl if we want to say there was some artistic license taken, adding that dark stripe between the eyes and down toward the bill, but Short-eared Owls nest on the ground, and the owls in the book are cavity-nesters.... as are Tawny Owls.

Little Owl and Eurasian Eagle Owl would require so much artistic license as to cause anger in birders everywhere. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;)

(Thanks, Julie!)