Photographer Leila Jeffreys settled her carefully chosen subject into position. The background was a complimentary shade of light brown. Except this was not an ordinary portrait shoot. Jeffreys’ subject was a magnificent Great Horned Owl known as Forrest.
Forrest stayed in place throughout the shoot, watching Jeffreys with her serious golden eyes. Her “horns”–tufts of feathers–descended across her face to give the impression of a single watchful eyebrow. At the time of the shoot, Forrest was in the care of the Ojai Raptor Center in California, which rehabilitates birds of prey. Despite being warned that Forrest was “strong willed,” the portrait of the owl came out beautifully.
The session is now included in Jeffreys’ new book Bird Love. Each photo in the printed menagerie of wild cockatoos, song birds, budgerigars, parrots and birds of prey is accompanied by a name and mini-biography of the bird. As with the best portrait photography, the personality of each subject shines through, from a jovial cockatoo named Bob, to a stern-faced budgerigar called Jimmy, to the regal Soren, a wedge-tailed eagle.
For this selection, Atlas Obscura focused on Jeffreys’ owl portraits, for which she worked with the Eagles Heritage rehabilitation center in Western Australia, as well as the Ojai Raptor Center. Below, delight in these photos of the most intriguing and charming of birds–the owl.