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What an Owl Knows

The New Science of the World’s Most Enigmatic Birds

Jennifer Ackerman

‘And if anyone knows anything about anything…it’s Owl who knows something about something.’ Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne

From prehistoric cave paintings to the prints and etchings of Picasso, owls have captivated and inspired us for millennia. Whether they appear as ancient Athenian symbols of wisdom, ghostly harbingers of death, or the cuddly sidekicks of Harry Potter and Winnie the Pooh, these birds have continued to fascinate and disturb us in equal measure.

Through revelatory new behavioural research, Jennifer Ackerman provides an intimate glimpse into these magnificent creatures’ lives. From the evolutionary quirks behind their silent flight and rotating heads, to their romantic relationships and parenting styles, What an Owl Knows brings the rich natural history of owls to life. Deftly weaving together science and art, Ackerman journeys into the owl’s moonlit world and asks: what is it about these birds that so enthrals us?

  • Publication date: July 6, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780861546909
  • RRP: £16.99
  • Pages: 352
  • Publication date: July 6, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780861546916
  • RRP: £9.99
  • Pages: 288


‘Once again, Jennifer Ackerman has written a fascinating, fact-filled and wonderfully readable work of popular science - this time on one of the most mysterious and charismatic of all bird families: the owls.’ 

Stephen Moss, author and naturalist

'Immensely enjoyable... What an Owl Knows eloquently bridges the gap between science and popular assumption to brings us the surprising (and often endearing) facts about these legendarily mysterious birds. Forget what you know, or think you know, because the truth is stranger than fiction!'

James Aldred, author of Goshawk Summer

'Absorbing and exquisitely researched. Ackerman guides the reader around the world, carefully unpacking what it means to be an owl and examining the human relationship with these oft-misunderstood birds.'

Jonathan Slaght, author of Owls of the Eastern Ice

‘I loved it… richly detailed, wide in scope, written with precision and clarity… I won't be able to see an owl in the same way again.’

Stephen Rutt, author of The Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds

'[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

'Always eloquent and engaging... 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.'


‘A fascinating study of a captivating bird. I learnt something new on every page. Ackerman’s book is a wonderful synthesis of ethology, wonder and passion for her subject.’

James Macdonald Lockhart, author of Wild Air

'Fascinating food for thought for owl seekers and sure to please any lover of immersive treks into the lives of birds.'

Kirkus, starred review

Jennifer Ackerman

Jennifer Ackerman is the bestselling author of The Genius of Birds and The Bird Way. She was a writer at National Geographic for seven years and has written extensively for many publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American and Smithsonian Magazine.

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