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Eagle Owl (cover)

Publisher: T & AD Poyser, London

Publication Year: 2019

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 384

ISBN Number: 9781472900661

Price: £ 60.00

The Eagle Owl

For clarity, the subject here is the Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo. The authors have studied this bird for more than 30 years in Finland, France, Spain and Italy and are exceptionally qualified to give it the Poyser-style treatment.

Their text is packed densely with information, supported by many literature citations, charts, line-drawings and photographs, and is written clearly and presented well – though often in exceptionally long paragraphs. Topics include numbers and distribution, nesting, feeding, movements and demographics. Oddly, a chapter headed ‘The Eagle Owl Calendar’ covers divorce, egg measurements, incubation patterns, cannibalism and brood-switching but with barely a mention of calendar dates. I was amazed to learn that this bird can live more than 60 years yet may start to breed within 10–11 months of hatching. Visual communication, especially through the white ‘throat badge’ that is revealed when calling, is surprisingly important. Sections by country reveal the extent to which releases of captive-bred birds have augmented the distribution and population size in western continental Europe, especially Germany and westwards into the Netherlands and France. Disputed estimates of 40 (and 10) breeding pairs in Britain are repeated here but alongside a discussion of the rumours and scanty data on which such numbers are based, and pointing out the lack of clear evidence that any wild birds are involved. Of particular relevance to Britain is a discussion of interspecific interactions and the negative effect this super-predator can have on smaller birds of prey.

Anyone interested in owls, predators in general, or issues around non-native species in Britain, should read this book.

Book reviewed by John Marchant

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