Friday, February 18, 2011


12 x 16 inches
Watercolor on 300 lb cold press paper

Late last summer, while Chad and I were taking an evening walk along south Timberline Road, we heard the most unearthly screeching sounds coming from a stand of cottonwood trees: "Yrrrch! Yrrrch! Yrrrch!" It turned out to be a couple of recently fledged barn owls, calling out plaintively to their parents; the latter of whom silently glided a short space away, hoping to divert the approaching humans' attention. "Yrrrch!" They were amazingly loud.  I could now see why earlier generations attached so many superstitions to these creatures, and how unsettling it would've been to accidentally run into them in the dark.

Barn Owls, also known as Ghost Owls or Monkey-Faced Owls, are quite a wide-spread species, being found in the Americas, Europe, and Africa.  However they aren't as common as they once were, especially as many of their namesake barns are being demolished or renovated into modern buildings.  Fortunately they do well in nesting boxes, and some farmers are even working with conservationists to host rehabilitated owls on their property.

Interestingly, barn owls aren't classified as "true" owls, (Strigidae) but belong to a unique group called Tytonidae. Their leg structure is different, they don't have ear tufts, and they most certainly don't hoot.  Individual coloring can widely vary, with some being very deeply colored, almost cocoa brown, while others are nearly pure white.  Males and females can look somewhat similar, but overall the females are usually larger and have more markings/coloring on their undersides. They usually mate for life and can raise at least two broods of chicks per season. 

It's my hope that, due to a milder winter, we'll soon sight even more of these pale, otherworldly birds near our home, hunting in the deep twilight...

1 comment:

artiqueryrose said...

I love your owl. There is a simplicity and serenity to it that captures it's attitude perfectly. Owls are my favorite subject to paint, and I know how hard it is to capture that essence!