Readers’ wildlife photos

Let’s finish up the batch of photos sent by reader Karen Bartelt, photos taken in Cuba. Today we have OWLS, the cats of the bird world. I’ll repeat her introduction from yesterday’s post:

From Cuba!  I just got back from an 11 day birding trip to Cuba.  I had envisioned soldiers, checkpoints, looking at passports, but nothing could be further from reality.  I saw a few traffic police and never a long gun, even in the airport.  No one asked for any papers at all.  I don’t know what life is like for ordinary Cubans—there seems to be a dearth of consumer goods, especially in rural areas.  However, I always felt safe, and the guides were wonderful and knowledgable.  Yes, you do have to be a part of a People to People tour, but that’s part of the fun, as you get to meet some great Cubans.  Since we were a birding tour, we met with Cuban naturalists, park rangers, and took school supplies to a very rural school.  If you are afraid to go to Mexico, consider Cuba.  And I flew on Delta, something I’m now very happy about.

Of the 28 endemic birds, we saw 24, though I don’t have good pictures of them all.  I’m going to send a few batches of photos before I go in for a shoulder replacement in mid March (last year’s birding injury).

Cuban pygmy owl (Glaucidium siju); endemic.  These are two different birds from different places.  The first is from the La Guira Nature preserve, the second from somewhere on the Zapata peninsula.

Bare legged owl (Margarobyas lawrencii), endemic.  Bermejas, east of the Bay of Pigs.

Male (top) and female (bottom) Stygian owls (Asio stygius), Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens.  We saw another pair of Stygian owls near La Guira Preserve. [JAC: What are those tufts about?]



  1. Posted March 12, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  2. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 12, 2018 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    “The ear tufts that are obviously visible in the photo [ IN THIS LINK ] are often only visible when the owl is alert or agitated, as relaxed Stygian Owls often show little indication of ear tufts”

    I read that they’re exclusively nocturnal hunters of mainly birds & bats – operating from a perch to hunt. Somewhere else I read they can catch flying bats – I wonder, do they go after hanging bats too? Why are so many deadly carnivores cute?

    • Karen E Bartelt
      Posted March 12, 2018 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      It was not only the 12 of us fairly quiet birders, but the wave after wave of cruise line groups that were going under the trees containing the Stygian owls. My ear tufts were up also as they pointed, talked loudly, and marched by.

    • Posted March 12, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      I looked into the ear tuft thing, and what I found was that people don’t know for sure why they have them. To look like a (more scary mammal)? Camoflague? Communication? There is no consensus that I saw.

    • Posted March 12, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      So you’ll protect them after mass murder.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 12, 2018 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

        Unfortunately I don’t have the acquaintance of any furred or feathered carnivores

  3. SnowyOwl
    Posted March 12, 2018 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Why some owl species have feather tufts:

    • Posted March 12, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      You can follow Darren on Twitter @TetZoo

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 12, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Thank you

    • Paul Matthews
      Posted March 12, 2018 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      To summarize the information at the link: why some owls have ear tufts isn’t known for sure, but the most likely hypothesis may be that they’re for camouflage (breaking up the owl’s bulky outline when in a tree). Virtually all the species with ear tufts roost in trees. Some extra weak evidence: long-eared owl (Asio otus) and short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) are closely related; the former has long ear tufts and is found is forest but the latter has small barely visible ear tufts and is found in open country and often roosts on the ground. These two are in the same genus as Stygian, which to me looks somwhat like long-eared.

      The above being said, I’m not sure I buy the camouflage hypothesis. As i think is mentioned at the link, lots of forest owls don’t have ear tufts.

  4. jaxkayaker
    Posted March 12, 2018 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Great photos. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Posted March 12, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Totally cool! I really like your owl pictures. I notice also what look like bromeliads in some of the pictures. Also saw a little orb web in one as well.

    • Karen E Bartelt
      Posted March 12, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Yes, lots of bromeliads. We actually rescued some kind of hawk moth that was caught in a big orb weaver web. I suppose that was unfair to Mrs Orb Weaver and her tiny husband, but I’m sure she has wrapped up something new by now.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted March 12, 2018 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        I would be there for the inverts, especially. Last night, inspired by your first post, I brought up the possibility of visiting Cuba to the wife. She is not yet persuaded to this sort of adventure.

  6. busterggi
    Posted March 12, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Cats & owls & ear tufts – convergent evolution or common ancestry – discuss the controversy!

  7. Paul Doerder
    Posted March 12, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Owls are hard to see, day or night. Good spotting, nice shots.

  8. Mark R.
    Posted March 12, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    For some reason I always think of owls living in temperate climes. Neat to see them in the jungle.

  9. Posted March 12, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been looking at animal skulls recently and came across an owl’s skull. Its eye bones are quite unlike others. They’re cylindrical.

  10. Diane G.
    Posted March 15, 2018 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Karen–good shots of some very cool species!

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