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Photographer's Note

Taken last year at a small private falconry centre not far from home, this is a Tawny Owl or Brown Owl (Strix aluco) which was kind enough to pose for me in the hollow of an old tree.

The tawny owl is a nocturnal bird of prey which hunts mainly rodents, usually by dropping from a perch to seize its prey, which it swallows whole; in more urban areas its diet includes a higher proportion of birds. Being daytime when I took this picture, this owl was almost falling asleep here, often closing its eyes for several seconds at a time.

The popular belief is that this owl has exceptional night vision, but its retina is actually no more sensitive than a human's. Rather, it is its asymmetrically placed ears that are key to its hunting because they give the tawny owl excellent directional hearing. Its nocturnal habits and eerie, easily imitated call have led to a mythical association of the tawny owl with bad luck and death.

You can see a larger version of this photograph on "beta" TE here.

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Additional Photos by John Cannon (tyro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1986 W: 427 N: 7659] (30513)
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