What an Owl Knows: The New Science of the World's Most Enigmatic Birds (Hardcover)

What an Owl Knows: The New Science of the World's Most Enigmatic Birds By Jennifer Ackerman Cover Image
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An instant New York Times bestseller!

A New York Times Notable Book of 2023

Named a Best Book of 2023 by Publishers Weekly

From the author of The Genius of Birds and The Bird Way, a brilliant scientific investigation into owls—the most elusive of birds—and why they exert such a hold on human imagination

With their forward gaze and quiet flight, owls are often a symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and foresight. But what does an owl really know? And what do we really know about owls? Some two hundred sixty species of owls exist today, and they reside on every continent except Antarctica, but they are far more difficult to find and study than other birds because they are cryptic, camouflaged, and mostly active at night. Though human fascination with owls goes back centuries, scientists have only recently begun to understand the complex nature of these extraordinary birds.
In What an Owl Knows, Jennifer Ackerman joins scientists in the field and explores how researchers are using modern technology and tools to learn how owls communicate, hunt, court, mate, raise their young, and move about from season to season. Ackerman brings this research alive with her own personal field observations; the result is an awe-inspiring exploration of owls across the globe and through human history, and a spellbinding account of the world’s most enigmatic group of birds.

About the Author

Jennifer Ackerman has been writing about science and nature for more than three decades. Her previous book, The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think, was a finalist for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. Her New York Times bestselling book, The Genius of Birds, has been translated into twenty-five languages and was named one of the best nonfiction books of 2016 by The Wall Street Journal, a Best Science Book by NPR’s Science Friday, and a Nature Book of the Year by The Sunday Times. Her other books include Birds by the Shore: Observing the Natural Life of the Atlantic Coast, Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body, and Chance in the House of Fate: A Natural History of Heredity. Ackerman’s articles and essays have appeared in National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, Scientific American, and many other publications. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Nonfiction, a Bunting Fellowship, and a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Praise For…

“Few books can pull together academic summaries with the joy of seeing owls . . . Ackerman has been able to bring together the expertise of everyone interested in owls, from hobbyist, rehabilitators, veterinarians, photographers, owl-alcoholics, and researchers. She weaves together an enormous amount of information from an enormous number of people, to give us perhaps the best popular and fact-filled informational book on owls to date.” —Denver Holt, founder, Owl Research Institute

“Ackerman is a warm and companionable guide, so enthusiastic about her subject that I suspect even the avian-indifferent will be charmed by her encounters with owls and the dedicated people who study them.” The New York Times

“A must-read for all bird lovers, Ackerman’s latest engaging work contains a feast of revelations about creatures that have fascinated us throughout human history. We learn that owlets begin making vocal sounds in the egg and that adult owls use sophisticated communication calls conveying their weight, sex, size and state of mind. Ackerman describes the strong maternal instincts owls display and outlines the environmental threats to these entrancing birds.” —The Guardian
“[Ackerman] offers an absorbing ear-tuft-to-tail appreciation of the raptor that Mary Oliver, a poet, called a ‘god of plunge and blood.’ Owls, it seems, know a lot. Ms. Ackerman draws on recent research to explain what and how.” —The Economist

“Ackerman is an excellent writer on the natural world, and in this wise and thoroughly researched book, her chapter on human-owl relations is especially fascinating.” New Statesman
“A fascinating read on how scientists are beginning to better understand the lives and ecology of these secretive and rarely visible birds.” —Science

“A gripping history . . . What An Owl Knows is a treat.” Financial Times
“An enchanting guide.” —People
“‘What is it about owls that so enthralls us?’ . . . [Ackerman] explores this question with her trademark thoroughness and care, leading readers on an in-depth tour through the extraordinary world of owls . . . Edifying and immersive.” —Bookpage (starred review)
“[A] masterful survey . . . There’s fascinating trivia on every page, making for a revelatory glimpse into the lives of the ‘enigmatic’ raptors. Bird lovers will be enthralled.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Fascinating food for thought for owl seekers and sure to please any lover of immersive treks into the lives of birds.”Kirkus (starred review)

Always eloquent and engaging, science writer Ackerman turns her attention to owls, those mysterious, nocturnal birds that everyone can recognize but few really know . . . Ackerman's latest vivid and compelling narrative is enlivened by her own passion for owls and her excitement over discoveries in the wild that show that, for humans, owls continue to be full of surprises . . . Captivating.” —Booklist (starred review)

"Ackerman’s account brings a sense of enchantment and wonder to this intriguing, complex animal, one that exerts an especially powerful pull on our psyche and culture.” Australian Financial Review

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593298886
ISBN-10: 0593298888
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: June 13th, 2023
Pages: 352
Language: English