Owls by Mike Toms
New Naturalist series no 125
ISBN 978 0 00 742557 0
Hardback £55.00, Softback £35.00, 422 pages
This book covers a gap in this remarkable series which seems to grow and grow. Although many of the British owls are well known this book covers migrants to the country as well as the Eagle Owl which has established in some moorland areas. There are 7 main chapters with the first 6 giving a look at introduction to the species, food and feeding, breeding ecology, movements, mortality, owls and humans. The last chapter covers the individual species.
The nocturnal habit of most of these species is very well summed up by a Short eared Owl living on the Galapagos islands. This bird feeds in the day time when no Galapagos hawks are present on the individual islands but where they are present the bird feeds at night taking away any competition. One Barn owl was seen for 2 years feeding in day light but when a pheasant feeder was placed close to the roost site the owl turned to night time hunting. The presents of Rooks and Jackdaws at the feeder was given as the reason but no mention of increased food for nocturnal mice and voles! This matches the owl’s nocturnal habit when especially Goshawks are present in this country.
Mike Toms has spent 20 years working for the BTO where he set up the national Barn Owl monitoring Programme as well as studying Tawny owl calls. He has also sat on the non native species panel where the present day Eagle Owls were discussed. With over 20 pages of references the book certainly puts known works of the Owls into one volume like the killing of Little Owls in tunnel traps to the modern day killing in ‘drain’ traps. The book is an excellent read and should be on every owl enthusiast’s book shelf not to mention collectors of this great series.