Fascinating Facts about Owls

Owls are some of the most misunderstood birds. They’re seen as death omens and companions of witches. That’s not what this post is about. We want to show you that these creatures of the night are, in fact, amazing!

There’s a generous amount of unknown and interesting facts about owls. These birds are, first of all, associated with Athena, a Greek goddess. This deity personifies wisdom. The city of Leeds in England uses 3 owls on its coat of arms. In Hinduism we have Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, love, wealth, prosperity and beauty. She is now and then depicted alongside an owl. This bird has a particular symbolism with the Hindu people. It is used to make them remember this: when darkness prevails, one has to watch, see and identify knowledge patiently. Canada has 3 provinces where owls are used as provincial symbols. In Ancient Egypt, owls appeared on hieroglyphics.owl

Owls are divided into over 220 species. They live in all kinds of habitats. Antarctica is the only continent devoid of owls’ presence. They can even live in a cactus! Here are the species that use cacti: ferruginous pygmy, great horned and elf. The oldest recorded owl fossil is 58 million years old.

Since we mentioned the elf owl, let’s see what makes this one even more special: it’s the smallest in the world! This species has a height of 5-6 inches (or 12.7-15.24cm). It’s also the lightest at 1 ½ ounces (28.35g). By length, the largest owl is the Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa). Then there’s the Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo). The heaviest ones are these: Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) and Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus).

Great-Gray-Owl

Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa)

When talking about many owls in a group, we use the word “parliament”. We can also refer to them as “study” or “wisdom”. A baby owl is known as an “owlet”.

An owl’s diet is diversified. The majority of them hunt for other birds and small mammals. They also feed on fish, insects and owls from another species. The Elf Owl likes to eat seed parts and fruit. These fascinating birds are excellent predators thanks to their wings. More on that later. Coming back to owls’ eating habits: they deal with this in a particular way. After an owl’s food is digested, they regurgitate something known as “pellet”. This is made of undigested feathers, fur, bones, teeth and so on. These are afterwards compressed into sort of a small ball. An owl’s large appetite for mice is helpful to humans who have problems with these rodents. Farmers in particular use barn owls to get rid of mice.

Eagle-Owl-(Bubo-bubo)

Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)

Owls have a distinctive appearance. First off, their posture is upright. A female owl is, for most species, more aggressive. Females are also larger and heavier compared to males. They’re excellent at camouflaging themselves. An owl’s eyes face forward and its ears cannot be seen unless you know how to look for them. Neither of an owl’s ears is the same size. Also, they’re asymmetrical. This is very helpful; with such ears, the bird identifies the exact position, distance and source of a certain sound. Sound quality becomes even better thanks to the owl’s flattened face. The heads of some owl species have tufts on them. These signal aggression. They also help camouflage the bird.

Great-Horned-Owl

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

As for eyes, an owl is equipped with 3 eyelids. They have different uses. One of them keeps the owl’s eye clean. Another one is used when the bird sleeps; the last one is used for blinking. An owl won’t be able to roll its eyes. Both eyes are used simultaneously when looking at something. Owls are, however, far-sighted. And yet, they see very well during night time.

An owl can’t move its amazing eyes. It can, however, turn its neck 135 degrees. In either direction. In total, that’s 270 degrees. That’s due to the presence of various body adaptations. For one, air-cushioned vessel casings. These help blood vessels safe against rupture. Second: blood-pooling systems. That’s used to prevent death from circulation cut-off. Third: alternative blood vessel routing.

Another interesting fact: the talons of an owl is very powerful. Their wings are, as mentioned, helpful allies. An owl’s feathers are special. With them, the sound of flapping is minimized to a great extent. Downy feathers are also present. Combined, they make the owl one of the most silent fliers.

snowy-owl

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)

Now for some owl trivia. Despite what most people believe, owls aren’t exclusively nocturnal. There are 4 toes on each foot. 2 of them point forward; the rest point backward. This is called zygodactyl feet. In general, a female will make sounds in a higher voice. Hooting isn’t the only sound an owl emits. On the contrary; owls can also growl, screech, hiss and bark. In fact some even whistle. This bird has some of the weirdest relatives. They’re the following: songbirds such as sparrows, nightjars, hummingbirds and kingfishers. The majority of owls species aren’t known as migratory birds. If they can’t find a source of good food, though, they will become nomadic.

That’s it for today. Hope you had fun reading our article!

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