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acrylic on illustration board 20 x 30
Sally-gleaning is a foraging style in which a bird perches near a leafy branch, searches it for insect prey, and flies in to capture quarry that it spots. It is commonly employed by warblers, kinglets and other small insect-eating arboreal birds, but I've also seen Screech Owls and Flammulated Owls engaged in it. It's not clear to me whether owls use sight, hearing or both to locate insects among leaves; I've never been able to identify their prey, and it's never been obviously noisy bugs like katydids or tree-crickets. In this speculative painting I've paired a Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus) with the caterpillar of a Relict Underwing (Catocala relicta), which feeds on the leaves of Aspens and other poplars. Flammulated Owls are tiny things, just barely bigger than Elf owls. They are related to the larger screech owls, but in many ways are more similar to the Old World scops owls. They nest high in the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia to Guatemala, and are among the most fast-growing predatory birds. Incidental subjects in this painting include a couple of adult Relict Underwings, a Northern Flying Squirrel and a Hoary Bat.