Owls are well-known as being highly successful predators, which excel at capturing their prey using their remarkable hearing and sense of sight, particularly at night. Some owls - a small number of them - have taken to getting their feet wet habitually, and one particular species in East Asia has taken the habit to the extreme: the Blakiston's Fish-Owl.
Blakiston’s Fish Owl photo credit Julie Edgley
Blakiston’s Fish Owl
(Photo: Julie Edgley)
Considered by some to be the largest owl in the world, the Blakiston's Fish-Owl is found in far eastern Russia, northeast China and northern Japan. its preferred habitat is older, lowland forests bearing large living and dead trees with cavities large enough to accommodate its nests. This is a region of freezing and snowy winters and even when many water surfaces in its preferred riparian habitats should freeze over, this owl remains there in the cold, concentrating its hunting efforts along quick-flowing streams and other water bodies that remain ice-free. it may capture prey by stalking it from a low perch or by wading in shallow water. As its name rightfully suggests, fish are an important item but it will also feed on waterfowl, small mammals, amphibians and crayfish, among other items, with the composition of its diet varying according to seasonal availability.

Blakison's Fish Owl photo credit Takashi Muramatsu
Blakison's Fish Owl
(Photo: Takashi Muramatsu)
Unfortunately, this species is endangered owing to logging in its preferred habitats and other resource extraction. Its population status, in addition to the remoteness of much of its range and peculiar habitat have conferred something of a legendary status to Blakiston's Fish-Owl. We will watch for it during our Japan in Winter tour in February 2022, when resident individuals may come to feed at a stream-side we will visit on Hokkaido!