The painting presents a colourful variety of birds surrounding an owl which sits on a branch holding an open musical score. The theme is taken from Aesop?s fable The Owl and the Birds and, thanks to Snyders?s influence, this motif received wide dissemination in 17th-century Flemish art. During the Middle Ages, the fable was looked upon as a religious allegory, however Snyders is here rather far from any such interpretation. He uses the subject as a pretext for demonstrating the unbelievable wealth of feathered fauna. The picture shows us both the birds populating the European forests, fields and waterways and the more decorative birds which were especially raised in Europe, as for example the peacock, Amazonian parrot and red macaw. Judging by the format of the work, it was intended to serve as a dessus-de-porte, a decorative panel placed over a doorway. There are many versions and copies of this picture.
oil on canvas