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Interesting Facts About Owls

While I have a great appreciation for man-made wonders, nothing comes close to the beauty of the natural world.

The mysterious, mighty owl.

The mysterious, mighty owl.

Owls Around the World

Owls are present on almost all continents of the Earth. The only exceptions are Antarctica, most of Greenland, and some of the remote islands.

Although owls are linked to superstition, mythology and spooky nighttime activities, owls are still celebrated and can still be found throughout cultures around the world—in jewelry, artwork, religion, and owls are even heroes, like Hedwig in the Harry Potter books and movies.

Humans have always been fascinated by owls. There are about 200 species of this bird of prey and some peculiar characteristics make them different from other birds.

Here are some interesting facts you may not know about owls.

1) Silent Flight

Owls are known to fly without making noise. As a result, their prey have no idea about the impending danger and owls are usually successful in targeting their prey.

This accuracy is made possible by the special type of feathers that owls have. Normally, sound is created when an objects passes through air. There are comb shaped appendages seen on the edges of feather of the owls, which consist of stiff edges and soft edges on either sides. These help in reducing the sound level by breaking up the air flow into small sections as well as in decreasing the air turbulence. Further, the ability to move slowly in comparison with other birds makes it almost a silent flight. The following picture can help in understanding this unique structure of feather of owls.

2) Head Flexibility - 270 Degrees

There is a difference between head and eye movements of humans and owls.

Unlike humans, owls have very limited capability of moving their eyes within the socket, which forces them to turn their entire heads for seeing in different directions.

Extreme and sudden movements of the neck can create serious problems for humans as these can result into stretching and even tearing of linings of blood vessels, whereas owls can afford to do it easily because their vascular system is highly developed and they have have unique bone structure, adding flexibility to their movements. Interestingly, the necks of owls look short because of the long and thick feathers around necks but their necks are actually much longer.

These differences gives the owl an edge over humans for head movements and they can rotate their heads up to 270 degrees. Since this capability can facilitate them to track their prey without making any body movements, owls are not at risk of being spotted and, therefore can pounce upon their potential pray without making their presence felt.

The video will demonstrate how they can track the target without movement of body.

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Read More From Pethelpful

Owl Head Movements and the Body Structure Involved

3) Owls as Predators

Owls are also known for their hunting skills. In the absence of any mechanism to chew their prey, they swallow their small-sized meals. If their prey is too large, they use their sharp beaks and powerful talons to kill and tear them apart before swallowing.

Since all the material may not be digestible they regurgitate the parts like bones, teeth, fur and feathers in the form of pellets.

Owls are carnivorous and mice, squirrels and other small mammals form a part of their prey. They are mainly nocturnal and, therefore hunt their prey in darkness.

4) Camouflage and Defense Mechanisms

In order to make themselves invisible to potential prey, owls have the capability to keep sitting without body movements and use their plumage to blend into the surroundings. The colour or even the texture of the environment used for preying can be mimicked by owls.

Notice the concealing posture of the this owl while positioning itself in the old trunk tree.

They also have the capability to squeeze their bodies to look thin or flaring their bodies to look larger than they actually are.

5) Structure and Strength of the Talons of Owls

Owls and some other birds have zygotactyl feet. This unique arrangement of toes provides these birds first and the fourth digit facing backwards and the second and the third forwards. It enhances the capturing capability of the owls and the owls are able to crush their prey due to this power of its talons. Some varieties of owls have very long talons in proportion to their bodies and also some can rotate one from the back to front to have better control over the prey. There claws are curved and sharp. All these features in their feet make them great hunters.

Owl talons are extremely strong and deadly.

Owl talons are extremely strong and deadly.

Outside a library in the Toronto Beaches

Outside a library in the Toronto Beaches

6) Owl Folklore

Owls have been the subject of folklore among many different cultures. The superstitions range from being symbols of wisdom to bad luck and omens.

Some countries attach different meaning to the type of owl. Those with ears are considered symbols of wisdom and the ones without ears the other way round in countries like France and Netherlands.

In early years in Rome, the hoot of the owl was linked with impending death.

Nailing of a dead owl to the door of a house happened to be an effort to avert evil in some cultures earlier.

In Kenya the Kikuyu associate the owl with bad luck and the hoot and sight of owl is linked with death even today.

Unlike old views, the owl is associated with wisdom in Western countries and it is a sign of good luck to see an owl in northern England.

Owls have found a unique place of provincial symbols in states like Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec in Canada.

Thus, the owls are viewed with different and contradictory beliefs in different parts of the world. Surprisingly, these folklores still prevail and these might have passed on one generation to the next by word of mouth.

Listen to a Eurasian Eagle Owl hooting

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Zia Uddin from UK on June 14, 2019:

Nice facts on owls. Never knew why owls are a sign of good luck in northern England.

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on November 29, 2017:

Ram, I liked your comments, specially equating humans with owls. It is still common along with its another version 'Ulloo ka Patha' (in Hindi), which is even more derogatory. I wish people have more knowledge about them. Thanks for visiting.

Ram Ramakrishnan on November 29, 2017:

Owl characteristics presented so very systematically. Very interesting read. With so much going for them, wonder why humans - supposedly dim-witted - were equated with owls, particularly in the Hindi heartland of central India. I still remember my grandfather's favorite invective of "Ulloo" that he would confer upon people he disliked. Glad that this practice has now waned.

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on March 11, 2014:

ChitrangadaSharan, I am glad you liked information about Owls. I used to here about owls from my childhood but knowing them in detail is really thrilling. No doubt, they are mysterious. Thanks for visiting and the support. Have a nice time!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 11, 2014:

Very interesting information about Owls, something I was not aware of. They are mysterious and you shared some very nice pictures and video in this hub.

Thanks for an interesting hub!

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on March 10, 2014:

Thanks for stopping by Linda. Owls do have magical impact and I am glad you also experienced that. Thanks for sharing these owls. Have a nice time.

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on March 10, 2014:

This is an excellent article on owls. I could look at pictures of them for hours. There is something so mysterious and magical about them. Great piece of work. I am sharing it :-)

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on March 09, 2014:

Thanks, sukkran. I am glad you liked facts about owls. Have a nice time.

Mohideen Basha from TRICHY, TAMIL NADU, INDIA. on March 09, 2014:

quite an interesting and informative post. i love your pictures.

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on June 11, 2013:

ladydeonne, Owls have always fascinated humans and that is how humans have been studying them so thoroughly. I am glad you liked the photographs.

bdegiulio, it is interesting to know that you like owls. They are really amazing. Photos and videos are great way of having a closer look at these wonderful birds. Thanks for visiting.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on June 10, 2013:

Wonderful look at one of my favorite feathered friends. Aren't owls just amazing. Great job with the photos and video.

Deonne Anderson from Florence, SC on June 10, 2013:

I've just fallen in love with owls! They are beautiful! This is a most interesting and informational hub. Your photos and videos are wonderful. I learned some things about owls I never knew before. I have never seen an owl to my knowledge. Thanks so much for sharing.

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