Tytonidae – Barn Owls & Grass Owls

Barn Owl Tyto alba ©Jeff Harrison Website

Owls, my favourite birds
by Friedhelm Weick

Owls are outstanding birds! Is it their silent hunting in the poor evening light and at night, their distinctive appearance – huge head and forward looking eyes or maybe the echoes of ancient myths and tales of woodland goblins and bewitched owl-shaped princesses? However, since my childhood owls were my favourite birds. They even outranked my ambition for the diurnal birds of prey. As a wildlife artist, birder and ornithologists – I never lost my contact to these feather-armoured knights of the twilight. When in 1980 my book Birds of Prey of the World (Parey, Berlin) was printed, I had the idea for a similar project on the strigiformes of the world. So I began to collect every bit of information about this subject – and, remember: the Internet wasn’t in reach for the common wildlife artist then.

I filed scientific articles, photos and colour-copies of books, sketches and other descriptions back to 1758, photos from living owls in the wildlife or captivity. Detailed lists of measures and colours of skins, weights and feathers grew larger and larger. Beside that I visited zoological gardens, ornithological institutes and a lot of private owl-keepers, birders and ornithologists. In the early nineties I wrote three different annotated checklists about Strigiformes. The first included all recent complete taxa and their distribution. A second listed all-important measurements and weights linked to an index of photos and paintings. The third list was a full description of plumages and soft parts combined with a detailed bibliography.

In this situation Claus König head of the Natural Science Museum at Stuttgart and ambitioned ornithologist asked me if I would be interested in a project which should result in nothing minor than the standard guide to all owls of the world. The publisher would be Pica Press, Sussex. Of course I was, wasn’t I?

The three checklists were the basic-stock for our further work. In the following years I examined some thousands of skins and mounted owls in all-important museums of the world, only supported by my dear wife Christel. Within nearly three years I painted all different taxa and morphes that were sometimes known only by one skin…

In 1999 the book was published… leaving me more time for birding and outdoor projects and, last but not least for new paintings of my favourite birds, guess which?

According to the IOC there are 19 members of this family; they are:

Greater Sooty Owl Tyto tenebricosa
Lesser Sooty Owl Tyto multipunctata
Minahassa Masked Owl Tyto inexspectata
Taliabu Masked Owl Tyto nigrobrunnea
Moluccan Masked Owl Tyto sororcula
Manus Masked Owl Tyto manusi
Golden Masked Owl Tyto aurantia
Australian Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae
Sulawesi Masked Owl Tyto rosenbergii
Red Owl Tyto soumagnei
Western Barn Owl Tyto alba
Eastern Barn Owl Tyto javanica
Andaman Masked Owl Tyto deroepstorffi
Ashy-faced Owl Tyto glaucops
African Grass Owl Tyto capensis
Eastern Grass Owl Tyto longimembris

Congo Bay Owl Phodilus prigoginei
Oriental Bay Owl Phodilus badius
Sri Lanka Bay Owl Phodilus assimilis

  • Friedhelm Weick

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 19

Useful Reading
  • DVD - British Birds of Prey

    Narrated & Filmed by Paul Doherty 90 minutes 28 species covered ?17.95 Bird Images DVD Guides, 28 Carousel Walk, Sherburn in Elmet, N Yorks LS25 6LP, United Kingdom http://www.birdvideodvd.com
    See Fatbirder Review ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Owls

    A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World by Barry Taylor and Ber van Perlo - Pica Press 1998 ISBN: 1873403593 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Barn Owl Conservation Network

    a website all about the conservation of Barn Owls in the British countryside. The Barn Owl Conservation Network is a project of The Hawk and Owl Trust aiming to increase Barn Owl numbers in the wild to 6000 breeding pairs by the year 2012
  • Barn Owl Trust

    The Barn Owl Trust is a registered charity dedicated to conserving the Barn Owl and its environment and is the main source of Barn Owl information in the UK. The Trust's educational work began in 1989 and we now also run training courses for ecological consultants and planning officers. We carry out surveys of old buildings due for development, and advise on Barn Owl mitigation measures. Our booklet 'Barn Owls on Site, a guide for developers and planners', published by English Nature is widely used by local authorities and other official bodies
  • Barn Owl Centre

    The Barn Owl Centre
Other Links
  • CD - All Europe's Owls

    Text in Swedish and English. 77 voices of all 13 European owl species, between 2 and 9 different voices per species. Not only territorials calls of males but even contacting calls, voices of females and owlets. CD, about 68 min…

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