New book on owls

by Greg Mayer

Seeing as owls are Honorary Cats™, I think it’s worthwhile to call attention to a book published last month by Yale University Press: Enigma of the Owl, by Mike Unwin, with photographs by David Tipling. I’ve not seen a copy yet, but the publisher’s website says it’s “lavishly illustrated”, and an article in the New York Times bears witness to that, being accompanied by a small sample of wonderful photos. I was immediately drawn to the photo of the burrowing owl with a frog dangling from its beak, which on closer inspection appears to be half a frog (the other half may have already been swallowed). But I chose to show the following, because it brings out the owl’s cat-like nature.

A small owl in a big cactus. From NY Times, Rick & Nora Bowers/Alamy, via Yale University Press



  1. BJ
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Ok, I’m assuming there’s some sort of scientific explanation behind the question I’m about to ask, and I’m hoping someone here knows the answer….

    Why do I and so many others find owls so damn cute? What is it about their features that makes them so appealing to us? I’ve always wondered this about particular animals. I mean, I get it with animals like cats and dogs, but there are certain animals that are just so cute and I don’t. know. why.

    • loren russell
      Posted April 5, 2017 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      To the degree that “Cute” is amenable to scientific explanation — it’s a “ooh — I want to take of that baby.

      Somewhere I have a list of 20 or so characteristics of the “Disney transformation”.

      They all relate to baby features — e.g.,disproportionately large round eyes centered in a disproportionately large round face on a large round head. Smaller, rounded body, short legs and arms, soft surfaces everywhere.

      Just happens that what works for keeping a baby fed also is a pretty good phonotype for a silent nocturnal hunter.

      • BJ
        Posted April 5, 2017 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        Huh, that’s particularly weird because I’ve never found babies cute, but it makes sense evolutionarily.

      • Alan Clark
        Posted April 6, 2017 at 5:17 am | Permalink

        So why do we find hedgehogs cute? They have small beady eyes, a pointy nose, and they are definitely not cuddly!

        • BJ
          Posted April 6, 2017 at 7:10 am | Permalink

          Heheh, good point. Although they can be cuddly when they’re not scared of you. Once those spikes go up, though…damn!

  2. Jenny Haniver
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Here are a couple of cats that think owls are honorary cats, too. and They are great pals. They just might “go off to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat” and “dance by the light of the moon.”

  3. Posted April 5, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    So sad that there is no Kindle edition yet (for us text-challenged folks). I’ll be keeping an eye on it to see if it ever appears.

  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    I do believe “A Parliament of Owls” by Mike Unwin is the SAME BOOK. If you are in the UK it will cost you £19.99 for the hard cover rather than than £31.95 for “Enigma of the Owl” !!! [I’m not 100% certain they’re the same, but I reckon it’s a very good bet given the stats below- can anyone check somehow?]

    “ENIGMA”: £31.95 [$39.89 equivalent]
    Hardcover: 288 pages
    Publisher: Yale University Press (7 Feb. 2017)
    ISBN-10: 0300222734
    ISBN-13: 978-0300222739
    Product Dimensions: 24.9 x 2.8 x 29.5 cm

    “PARLIAMENT”: £19.99 [$24.96 equivalent]
    Hardcover: 288 pages
    Publisher: William Collins (3 Nov. 2016)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0008206708
    ISBN-13: 978-0008206703
    Product Dimensions: 30.3 x 3 x 25.3 cm

    People in USA [& I assume Canada, but more P&P of course] can save dosh by buying “Parliament” NEW HARDBACK via resellers on although you’ll have to wait until they have stock [end of April] e.g. $23.09 + $3.99 USD from SuperBookDeals

  5. alexandra Moffat
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    PBS tonight had an interesting hour on Owls.
    Maybe it will rerun or be available on its web site.

  6. Posted April 5, 2017 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know whether this has been pointed out here before, but the Chinese (Mandarin) word for “owl” (猫头鹰) literally translates to “cat-headed eagle.” So there’s an entire culture that’s with you in viewing owls as Honorary Cats.

  7. Fernando Peregrin
    Posted April 6, 2017 at 3:26 am | Permalink

    Albrecht Dürer (/ˈdʊərər, ˈdjʊərər/;[1] German: [ˈalbʁɛçt ˈdyːʁɐ]; 21 May 1471 – 6 April 1528) was a painter, printmaker, and theorist of the German Renaissance. Born in Nuremberg, Dürer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties, due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was in communication with the major Italian artists of his time, including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci, and from 1512 he was patronized by emperor Maximilian I.

  8. Fernando Peregrin
    Posted April 6, 2017 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    Albarto Durero, Museo del Prado, Madrid

  9. Posted April 6, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    That’s one big cactus!

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