Thursday, 14 August 2008

Ever seen an owl flying backwards?

British Library, Harley MS 4751, Folio 47. A little harsh but according to the bestiary:

The owl haunts ruins and flies only at night; preferring to live in darkness it hides from the light. It is a dirty, slothful bird that pollutes its own nest with its dung. It is often found near tombs and lives in caves. Some say it flies backwards. When other birds see it hiding during the day, they noisily attack it to betray its hiding place. Owls cry out when they sense that someone is about to die.

There are several kinds of owls described in the bestiaries: noctua, the night-owl, that lives in the walls of ruined houses a shuns the light; nictocorax, the night-raven; and the bubo, the common owl, a dirty bird that pollutes its nest.

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