Let me digress into more appetizing subjects, or away from less appetizing ones. How about owls? I’m up to my elbows in them at the moment, painting a field guide plate (Birds of Trinidad and Tobago). When this is done I’ll move on to the antbirds, a hugely diverse group. Owls hold a fascination for us, an elevated status; they are mythical. Why else is Athena the Greek goddess of wisdom represented by an owl? In fact the burrowing owl, Athene cunicularia, is named for her. How about the mysterious sounds in the dark at which we shiver, and then endow with supernatural power with our reptilian brains?
Recorded in Peru, December 2008, strange screams in the night, probably of owlish origin.
In my studio are skins of tropical owls on loan from the American Museum of Natural History, and I’ve been using skins at SNOMNH as well. I can examine these specimens closely and see the intimate details of a bird evolved for life as a nocturnal predator.