Owls are some of the most loved birds in the world. They can also be spooky and mysterious, but above all they’re fascinating.
Here are 15 amazing facts about owls.
Number of species
There are more than 150 species of owls in the world, and some counts indicate more than 220 species depending on how different owls are classified. Owls are found on all continents except Antarctica.
Great grey owl
Most owls have asymmetrical ears of different sizes and at different heights on their heads. This gives them excellent hearing ability and they can pinpoint where prey is located even if they are unable to see it.
Owls cannot rotate their forward facing eyes which are supported in bony eye sockets. Instead they have to turn their heads and although some owls can rotate their heads through 270 degrees it is a myth that they can turn their heads all the way round.
An owl has three eyelids: one for blinking, one for sleeping and one for keeping the eye clean and healthy.
Names for owls
A group of owls is called a parliament, wisdom or study and baby owls are known as owlets.
Hoots and screeches
Not all owls hoot and they can make a wide range of other sounds such as screeches, barks, hisses and whistles. During the nesting season their calls are at their loudest and can be heard up to a mile away.
Northern hawk owl
Diet of mice
A barn owl can eat up to 1,000 mice each year, and many farmers try to attract barn owls to help control rodent populations in agricultural fields.
In most species, female owls are larger, heavier and more aggressive than males. If the birds are dimorphic, the female is often more richly colored than the male.
Not all owl species are nocturnal. How often an owl is seen during the day depends on the seasonal amount of daylight and darkness, food supplies and habitat.
Owls have been found in the fossil record up to 58 million years ago. The largest recorded owl fossil, Orinmegalonyx oteroi, stood about three feet tall.
Owls preying on owls
Some owls hunt other owls such as great horned owls which are the number one predator of barred owls.
Lesser sooty owl
Owls are virtually silent when they fly because they have special feathers that break turbulence into smaller currents and reduces the sound of the air waves, and soft down that muffles noise.
In many cultures the hoot of an owl is considered an unlucky omen and may even signal death.
After killing and eating its prey, the owl’s digestive tract processes the parts that can’t be digested such as fur and bones into a compact pellet which the owl later regurgitates.
Eastern screech owl
Masters of disguise
Many owls sleep in broad daylight hidden in plain sight due to their camouflage which allows them to blend into their surroundings.