Sunday, June 28, 2009


Check out the pair of owls that came to roost on my mother-in-law's verandah in Recreio, Rio de Janeiro. Beautiful, aren't they? Anybody know what kind of owls they might be?

I always feel awe when I come across an owl. Here in Mozambique (and in other parts of Africa, if I'm not mistaken), owls have a pretty negative connotation and are associated with death and sorcery.

I vividly remember coming across some huge owls while driving at night between Espungabera and Chimoio, holding my breath while they flapped their wings as if in slow motion and took flight just in the nick of time.

Just last month while doing field work in Gurue, in a gorgeous part of Zambézia province, my friend Andrew and I saw a big owl swoop down at night to catch some unseen creature in the lawn in front of the dormitory where we were staying.

I also clearly remember owls from my childhood. There were several barn owls that lived in the trees surrounding the house where I grew up in New Mexico. As part of school activity in 7th or 8th grade, we had to find and dissect owl pellets. Pretty crazy stuff. You can see from the droppings how easily these creatures can take on macabre associations.

Nonetheless, they are on my good list. They eat rodents and snakes, and just with that I'm happy to have them around.


nola said...

Yes - I've seen those kind of owls before - I just can't think what they're called and now it's going to drive me crazy! Many Native American peoples believe as in Africa, with the death and sorcery. A very good book is "I Heard the Owl Call My Name" by Margaret Craven.

nola said...

My best guess is burrowing owl. Lack of ear tufts, bright yellow eyes, out and about in daylight but hiding from the heat, not very large, long legs, and the barring - I think it fits, but hard to tell without hearing their calls.;

Ali la Loca said...

~Nola - Thanks for the tentative id, you are awesome. I have several field guides for birds/snakes/trees/etc., but none for the Americas.

I read "I Heard the Owl Call My Name" while in school - 7th or 8th grade, I believe - and don't really remember much other than really liking the story. I need to re-read a lot of the books from our mandatory reading list fro back in the day.

nola said...

Oh, and some of the sites that I looked at said they're endangered in most areas - so quite a gift to your mother-in-law!

Tracy said...

Hi Ali,

Let me put on my "bird nerd" hat. Nola is right, these are burrowing owls. I actually do a lot of work with them here in Sacramento. They are a Species of Special Concern in California although they will nest in or near highly altered habitats (e.g. a disced field or a graded field ready for houses to be built). I have a very special place in my heart for owls, as I am a night owl myself. ;) They do a great job of keeping the rodent population down. Next time someone in Africa or Brazil freaks out about owls you can tell them they have owls partially to thank for keeping their property mouse-free.