Isn’t he cute? He looks almost alive.
Unfortunately, he’s not.
This little guy is an eastern screech owl. Following a heavy storm, he was found dead on a residential street, entangled in some fallen branches at the base of a utility pole.
I’ve previously posted a picture of him before. I’ve never had the opportunity to look at owls close up.
He’s recently dead, his eyes have not yet begun to cloud or dessicate. Owl eyeballs are not spherical, they’re bell shaped, and fixed in their sockets.
Since the eyes are fixed, owls move the entire head instead and can turn it almost all the way around.
There’s another lesser known effect of eye immobility. Owls have excellent vision but have close range astigmatism. The area just in front of them is always blurry.
But that’s okay, because that blind spot is covered by crines. Crines are specialized whisker-like feathers around the beak area that extend into the blurry zone.
These whiskers are highly sensitive, and allow the owl to “feel” for it’s food items, since it cannot see them.
The owl’s capacity for silent flight comes from the fimbriate border of it’s flight feathers. This comb-like edge breaks up turbulence over the wing to reduce sound.
These nubbins on his talons are called spicules, and are modified scales. Theyre common in birds of prey, and help improve grip by increasing the surface area, the same way fingerprints function in humans.
Owing to the circumstances in which he was found, we initially believed him to be another unfortunate motor vehicle victim, but soon realized that this was not the case.
There’s two blackened spots at the tips of his talons.
His underside is a charred mass of feathers, and he’s got a faint “burnt” smell. The skin on the inside of his leg is roasted to a golden brown. The word “rotisserie” comes to mind.
I guess that power line wasn’t a safe perch after all.
Can’t pass up the opportunity to make some more drawings.