Missouri is the year-round home to four species of owls:  the great horned, barred, screech, and common barn. 

Desmond Morris.
London : Reaktion Books, 2009.
From Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat”to David Lynch’sTwin Peaks, owls have been woven into the fabric of popular culture. At times they are depicted as dignified, wise old scholars and at other times as foreboding voyeurs who see all and interrogate with an accusatory, “Who? Who?” InOwlbest-selling author Desmond Morris explores the natural and cultural history of these predators of the night who embody both good and evil in turn. nbsp; In this fascinating book, Morris describes the evolution, the many species, and the wide spread of owls across the globe. Owls are found on every land mass around the world, with the exception of Antarctica; and as a result of their wide distribution, owls appear in the folktales, myths, and legends of many native peoples—in addition to popular art, film, and literature worldwide. Featuring over 100 telling illustrations from nature and culture,Owlwill appeal to the numerous fans of this enigmatic bird, from the friendly Mr. Owls to silent, sinister, hunters of the dark. nbsp;
Owls of the world
Claus König & Friedhelm Weick ; with a contribution on molecular evolution by Michael Wink et al.
New Haven : Yale University Press, 2008.
Active only at twilight or in the dark of night, most species of owl are seldom seen. Even the most zealous birders rarely encounter owls, and attempts to identify them are complicated by the number of species that are almost indistinguishable by plumage alone. This comprehensive guide (a thoroughly updated edition of the authors’ previous volume,Owls: A Guide to Owls of the World), penetrates the mysterious world of owls with full color illustrations, detailed species descriptions, useful information on vocalizations, and much more. nbsp; An important reference book as well as identification guide,Owls of the Worldencompasses the 250 known species and many subspecies of owl, including twelve new species that have been discovered over the last decade. Michael Wink,et al. contribute a new section on molecular evolution. The book features sixty-eight full-color plates depicting every species and distinct subspecies, color morphs, and juvenile plumages. Current distribution maps are also provided. nbsp; All the facts on: ·nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Identification features, including how to distinguish similar species ·nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Habitat ·nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Geographical variation ·nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Food, breeding, and habits ·nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Species status and conservation efforts ·nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; The latest owl taxonomy, based on DNA analysis and vocalizations nbsp; Every ornithologist, birder, and wildlife enthusiast will want to own this essential guide—the most comprehensive and advanced book ever published on owls.
Owls of North America
Frances Backhouse.
Buffalo, N.Y. ; Richmond Hill, Ont. : Firefly Books, 2008.
Mysterious, silent and ferocious birds of prey.Owls are almost everywhere. These distinctive birds populate every continent except Antarctica and survive in everything from arid desert, to arctic tundra, to dense rain forest.From ancient mythology to Harry Potter, owls hold an enduring place in the human imagination. In some cultures they are revered; in others, feared. And for every superstition that associates owls with good fortune, a dozen more link them to death, sickness or evil.Frances Backhouse provides an in-depth yet lively study of these fascinating birds. Topics include anatomy and adaptations, mating behaviors, egg laying and chick rearing, feeding habits, communication displays and location.Superbly designed birds of prey, owls are equipped with highly effective tools for killing and dismembering their prey: strong feet with curved, stiletto-like talons and a sturdy hooked bill with razor-sharp cutting edges. What makes owls unique is that most of them hunt in darkness from dusk to dawn using their keen hearing, enhanced low-light vision and sound-muffling structures on their flight feathers.With detailed profiles of and range maps for all 23 species, along with 70 color photographs illustrating key behavioral characteristics, Owls of North America is a solid reference for birders, naturalists and general readers.
The owl and the woodpecker : encounters with North America's most iconic birds
Paul Bannick ; foreword by Tony Angell.
Seattle, WA : Mountaineers Books, 2008.
Though the text about the owls and woodpeckers is superb, it is the photos that fill this lovely volume that will take a reader's breath away. A specialist in the wildlife of the Pacific Northwest, Bannick extended his territory to study and photograph woodpeckers and owls throughout North America. The result is an accessible and fascinating account of both, their importance in the ecosystem, their usefulness to other bird species, (who use their cavities for nesting, or, like the hummingbird, drink the sap from the wells they drill), their crucial role as indicators of the health of the environments in which they live, and the stories of how they mate, nest, and raise their young. The CD contains audio of calls and drumming of 43 species. Oversized: 9.25x10.25". Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Owls of the United States and Canada : a complete guide to their biology and behavior
text and photographs by Wayne Lynch.
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
"There is no group of birds more mysterious and fascinating than owls. The loudmouths of the raptor world, they peep, trill, toot, bark, growl, shriek, whistle, chittle, whoop, chuckle, boom, and buzz. Indeed, very few actually "hoot." They have become the stuff of lore and legend - from the Roman myth that an owl foot could reveal secrets to the First Nations belief that an owl feather could give a newborn better night vision. But the truth about owls is much more exciting." "In this gorgeous book, celebrated natural history writer and wildlife photographer Wayne Lynch reveals the secrets of these elusive species with stunning photographs, personal anecdotes, and accessible science. The photos alone are masterpieces. Unlike most published owl photos, which are portraits of birds in captivity, the vast majority of these were taken in the wild - a product of the author-photographer's incredible knowledge and patience." "Lynch complements the photos with a wealth of facts about anatomy, habitat, diet, and family life. For each of the nineteen species that inhabit Canada and the United States, he provides a range map and a brief discussion of its distribution, population size, and status. Lynch debunks myths about owls' "supernatural" powers of sight and hearing, discusses courtship rituals, and offers personal tips for finding owls in the wild." "From the great horned to the tiny elf owl, this amazing volume captures the beauty and mystery of these charismatic birds of prey."--BOOK JACKET.
Owls of the world : their lives, behavior, and survival
James R. Duncan.
Buffalo, N.Y. : Firefly Books, 2003.
Owls : the silent fliers
R.D. Lawrence.
Buffalo, N.Y. : Firefly Books, 2001.
Back in print, now in paperback: Owls; The Silent Fliers. R.D. Lawrence explains how owls hunt, what they feed on , how they see in the dark and much more. The engaging text is accompanied by stunning color photographs.
Understanding owls : biology, management, breeding, training
Jemima Parry-Jones.
Newton Abbot, Devon : David & Charles, 1998.
With their glowing, unblinking eyes they seem to notice everything -- and to have the wisdom to understand it all, too. From biology and taxonomy, to housing, feeding, incubation, and rearing to training and flying, a master breeder and trainer of owls shares her extensive knowledge of these nighttime creatures -- both in the wild and in captivity. A general overview covers their anatomy, and a morphology details the various subfamilies of owl. Find out about the role their specially adapted -- and extremely beautiful feathers -- play in aiding their "silent flight"; the incredible variety of noises they make (and how these can help you identify a breed); the intricacies of their behavior patterns; and the way the babies are hatched, fed, and nurtured. Here's what you need for those first attempts at breeding and to train and hunt with your birds of prey. Dozens of remarkable full-color photos provide a close-up look at barn owls, Eagle owls, tawny owls, and snowy owls.

Owls are not only found in Missouri’s grasslands and forests.  Missouri’s most common owl, the great horned, is comfortable in the city.   Look for them in city parks and cemeteries.

Myths surround owls.  Perhaps that’s due to their haunting “Whooooo” call, large unmoving eyes, or nocturnal lives.  To an ancient Greek soldier the morning appearance of an owl prior battle signaled an imminent victory.  And, who has not heard of the ‘the wise old owl’ proverb?

While the luck and wisdom of owls may be myth, this raptor’s ability to hunt is real.  Two senses make owls bold hunters. A strong sense of hearing enables owls to hear their prey, even below ground.  The owl’s face, resembling a satellite dish, helps direct sound to the ears. The right ear opening is higher than the left allowing them to hear from all directions.  Big eyes provide them with better sight than humans.  

Famous owls

Woodsy Owl – USDA Forest Service
Temple University mascot
from Disney’s Sword in the Stone
Hedwig – Harry Potter’s pet

Once a prey is chosen the owl’s soft, feathered wings allow them to fly silently, giving rodents, other birds, and reptiles little opportunity to take cover.  Some call the barn owl a live mousetrap with its ability to devour rodents.  Even skunks are fair game.  The great horned owl, whose sense of smell is minimal, will dine on adult skunks. 

“Owl prowls” are walks through owl habitats.  Check with local nature groups and park rangers for schedules in St. Louis and around Missouri.   Soon you’ll be making calls to owls and listening for them to answer.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff