I love seeing owls. So do many of our readers, which is why I take every practical opportunity to place owl pictures into Birder's World. When I learned that Elf Owls were a star attraction at Arizona's Kofa Queen Canyon (featured in our April issue), my goal was to find a striking photo of this tiny southwestern owl, North America's smallest.
They're less than six inches long, and it would take four of them to match the length of the Great Horned Owl. But short of posing an Elf next to a Great Horned, how can one show how small this bird really is?
Tom Vezo's remarkable photo shows the owl clutching a big bug, which lends an excellent sense of scale to the bird. The owl is displayed larger-than-life size on the table of contents page in our April 2007 issue.
But getting such an image involves planning and knowledge of bird behavior. Tom knew of an Elf Owl nest location in Arizona's Madera Canyon but stayed away until he was certain that the eggs had hatched. "You really have to be careful at the beginning," he told me, emphasizing the importance of allowing undisturbed space for the birds to nest. "The owls want to feel safe."
Tom knew the eggs had hatched when he saw both parents out hunting for food. He set up his camera and tripod during the day and started shooting in the evening, when the owls came out to hunt. The photo opportunities became plentiful as the busy birds passed by about every 15 minutes carrying moths, bugs, even scorpions to feed their young. "They're very tame birds," he added, recalling a time when one Elf Owl actually landed on his flash unit. "It almost landed on my head." --E.M.