Wednesday, 11 February 2015

B.O.T.D. Barn Owl

B.O.T.D. Feb 11, 2015

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

More tolerant of human presence than most owls, the barn owl earned its name from its willingness to nest in barns, belfries, and other buildings as well as in hollow trees and caves. And it mingles with the people of many nations: found in North and South America, it also ranges across parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and even far-off Australia.

Described by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century as a "prophet of woe and mischance," the car owl has probably given rise to tales of haunted houses on every continent it inhabits. For owls around the world - creatures of the night, swift, silent hunters given to hooting spookily - have been perceived in all cultures as birds of ill omen and harbingers of death.

Yet such is the ambivalent of the human mind that owls have also long been revered as symbols of sagacity. The ancient Greeks associated owls with Athena, goddess of wisdom, and embellished their coins with an image of that deity on one side and an owl on the reverse. Certainly the bird's solemn stare conveys at least a suggestion of superiority and hidden knowledge. And so it is hardly surprising that, even in the space age, we continue to cherish "the wise old owl."