Species In This Category

About Owls

Owls are birds from the order Strigiformes, which includes about 200 species of mostly solitary and nocturnal birds of prey typified by an upright stance, a large, broad head, binocular vision, binaural hearing, sharp talons and feathers adapted for silent flight. Exceptions include the diurnal Northern Hawk-owl and the gregarious Burrowing Owl. Owls hunt mostly small mammals, insects, and other birds although a few species specialize in hunting fish. They are found in all regions of the Earth except Antarctica and some remote islands. Owls are divided into two families: the "true owls" or "typical owls," Strigidae; and the Barn Owls, Tytonidae.

Owl Facts

  1. Encouraging natural predators to control rodent population is a natural form of pest control, along with excluding food sources for rodents. Placing a nest box for owls on a property can help control rodent populations (one family of hungry barn owls can consume more than 3,000 rodents in a nesting season) while maintaining the naturally balanced food chain. (1)
  2. Most birds of prey have eyes on the sides of their heads, but the stereoscopic nature of the owl's forward-facing eyes permits the greater sense of depth perception necessary for low-light hunting. Although owls have binocular vision, their large eyes are fixed in their sockets—as are those of other birds—so they must turn their entire head to change views. (2)
  3. Owls exhibit specialized hearing functions and ear shapes that also aid in hunting. They are noted for asymmetrical ear placements on the skull in some genera. Owls can have either internal or external ears, both of which are asymmetrical. Asymmetrical ear placement on the skull allows the owl to pinpoint the location of its prey.(3)
  4. Most owls share an innate ability to fly almost silently and also more slowly in comparison to other birds of prey. Most owls live a mainly nocturnal lifestyle and being able to fly without making any noise gives them a strong advantage over their prey that are listening for the slightest sound in the night.(4)
  5. Serrated edges along the owl’s remiges bring the flapping of the wing down to a nearly silent mechanism. Research has shown that the serrations are more likely reducing aerodynamic disturbances, rather than simply reducing noise. (5)
  6. Among the Kikuyu of Kenya it was believed that owls were harbingers of death. If one saw an owl or heard its hoot, someone was going to die. In general, owls are viewed as harbingers of bad luck, ill health, or death. The belief is widespread even today. (6)

Owl Sources

  1. Source: Non-toxic Rodent Control, The Hungry Owl Project, Accessed January 8, 2016. Details here
  2. Source: "International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge: Posters & Graphics". Science 339 (6119): 514–515. 2013. doi:10.1126/science.339.6119.514
  3. Source: König, Claus, Friedhelm Weick & Jan-Hendrik Becking (1999). Owls: A guide to the owls of the world. Yale Univ Press, 1999.
  4. Source: Bachmann T., Klän S., Baughmgartner W., Klaas M., Schröder W., & Wagner H. (2007). "Morphometric characterisation of wing feathers of the barn owl Tyto alba pratincola and the pigeon Columba livia". Frontiers in Zoology 4: 23. doi:10.1186/1742-9994-4-23
  5. Source: Ibid, Bachmann.
  6. Source: Marcot, B. G., P. M. Cocker, and D. H. Johnson. Owls in lore and culture. Presented at Owls 2000: the biology, conservation and cultural significance of owls. International conference. Canberra, Australia, 19-23 January 2000. Accessed January 8, 2016. Details here