October is a good month to see owls in Shanghai, where these birds are rare in most other months. Two species can be seen quite regularly – Northern Boobook and Oriental Scops Owl.
Northern Boobooks are mostly found as individuals. They look a bit like cartoon birds, with ridiculously huge yellow eyes.
In contrast, Oriental Scops Owls seem to often migrate in slightly larger groups of maybe 10 or so. They even try to roost close together during the daytime.
For Oriental Scops Owl, at least two color morphs exist, a grey-brown one and a scarcer rufous one. Some sources claim a third morph (reddish-grey). I can understand the confusion – to me it seems that almost no two of these owls look alike.
Spotting these owls is not that easy – they are well camouflaged and hide themselves well.
Getting a close look at Oriental Scops Owl, one can understand why the Chinese word for owl is maotouying, or “cat head eagle”. For somebody like me who likes both birds and cats, owls are perfect birds.
Had Samuel Johnson been a birdwatcher, he probably would have said that “when a man is tired of owls, he is tired of life”.
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