Owls have always featured prominently in the mythology and folklore of a variety of cultures. These mysterious nocturnal creatures are thought to be symbols of wisdom, omens of death, and bringers of prophecy. In fact, owls are one of the oldest species of vertebrate animal, with fossils dating back 60 million years.
Owls have been a source of inspiration to writers, artists, historians and naturalists alike. In a much-anticipated volume on one of Britain’s most fascinating group of birds, Mike Toms draws on a wealth of experience and research, providing a comprehensive natural history of British owls.
The first part of the book covers various aspects of owl taxonomy, origins, anatomy, behaviour and ecology and looks across the British owl species, drawing comparisons and highlighting differences. The second part takes each species in turn to provide a more detailed perspective, fleshing out relevant conservation issues, behaviour and status.
Toms explores Britain’s beloved Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and Snowy Owl amongst several others. He uses the vast database and latest research from his work with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to focus particularly on the specifics of owls’ breeding ecology, their dispersal patterns, diet, vocalisations, description, population changes and mortality. He addresses conservation issues, changes in legislation and potential changes in the status of one of Britain’s most iconic birds, providing a fascinating overview of the biology and history of British owls.
‘Seventy years in the making, this celebration of our native owls is a fine addition to a glory of British publishing – the New Naturalist series’ The Sunday Times
‘It’s an excellent read and should be on every owl enthusiast’s bookshelf, not to mention those of collectors of this great series’ Birdwatching
‘Fabulous … [Owls brings] the natural world to a wide audience in simple unfussy but engaging prose … The result is the best and most detailed published account of the British owl species ever produced … One of the joys of the book is that Toms leaves no stone unturned to narrate the birds’ full biography.’ Mark Cocker, Eastern Daily Press
Praise for the New Naturalist series:
‘Taken either individually or as a whole, they are one of the proudest achievements of modern publishing’ The Sunday Times
‘The series is an amazing achievement’ The Times Literary Supplement
‘The books are glorious to own’ Independent
About the author
Mike Toms is an ornithologist who has been with the British Trust for Ornithology since 1994. His starting role at the Trust was to organise the first robust and repeatable national survey of the UK’s Barn Owl population. Since then he has helped to set up the national Barn Owl Monitoring Programme, examined the calling behaviour of Tawny Owls and carried out the Non-native Species Secretariat’s risk assessment for Eagle Owls. A strong advocate for ‘citizen science’ and the effective communication of science to a broader audience, he is the author of a number of books, including The Migration Atlas, and a regular contributor to BBC Wildlife magazine. He is a keen amateur naturalist in the traditional sense and likes nothing better than being out in the field.