Creature of the Week #6: The Burrowing Owl

Welcome to Creature of the Week #6! First a public service announcement: Sword of Fire and Sea is live on Amazon Kindle! It’s been up for about a day and has popped onto a “top 100” list, so many of you have found it already, but this is a more persistent heads-up. 🙂 Two nice reviews have also come in, one from Scott Barnes at NewMyths.com, who calls SWORD “a swashbuckling fantasy adventure reminiscent of the golden age of high fantasy dominated by the likes of Terry Brooks and Tad Williams.” He also offers up an observation on fantasy politics:

Hoffman has created a fun world populated by gryphons, elemental witches, pirates, and goddesses. I greatly enjoyed the maritime setting, the salty air and cry of gulls never far from my imagination. Many high fantasies ignore commerce all together, as if the economies of their worlds ran on warfare alone and food grew in people’s bellies. But Hoffman’s world is based on politics and trade and the correct assumption (very relevant in today’s political climate) that people in power have the most to lose from change and often will accept a worse fate for their countries in exchange for the status quo.

Thanks, Scott!

This week’s creature was also chosen by voting on the the World of Andovar page! It is, in a way, a hybrid of the two top vote-getters, being both “something from the sky” and “something from down below the earth”: the fabulous little burrowing owl. These guys are so cute that it’s hard to pick just a couple of photos of them, but I did my best.

Burrowing owls have attracted recent attention from conservationists as habitat destruction has driven them into endangered species status in Canada. They’re threatened in Mexico, and under observation in the western US, which comprises the rest of their range. According to Defenders of Wildlife, their wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 breeding pairs.

The burrowing owl isn’t the smallest owl in the world (that’d be the elf owl, but it’s pretty close! With length averaging between 6-10″, males and females being the same size (unusual in raptors). Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are not completely nocturnal, and hunt (insects and small rodents mostly) during the day. They strike prey with their feet, and makes its nest in holes dug out of the ground. Baby burrowing owl chicks can fly at six weeks of age, and make a rattlesnake-like hissing noise when threatened.

Cute enough for the silver screen, the latest highly recognizable Hollywood burrowing owl is Digger, first appearing in Kathryn Lasky’s The Capture, and one of the main characters if the stunning Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole AnimalLogic film.

What do you think? Would you want to meet an owl gryphon?

Just saying… 😉

(Okay, can’t help it. Some more photos, these guys are too cute.)

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