Owls are one of Mother Nature’s most stunning creatures. They are majestic, beautiful, and powerful as well as being elegant and wise.
There’s so much to love about owls, but for many of us they’re something of a mystery since they are nocturnal and aren’t the most sociable birds, well, those in the wild at least.
So, it got us thinking; wouldn’t it be a good idea to get to know the owl a little better?
We’ve put together some amazing facts about these gorgeous birds and we think that number 17 will blow you away!
Table of Contents
1 – There Are Hundreds Of Owl Species
The owl is a widespread bird and you will find these beautiful creatures living almost everywhere on the planet.
In fact, the only place they can’t be found is in Antarctica so wherever you are, you’ll likely be able to see an owl.
What’s amazing is that there are more than 150 different species of owl and if you further classify these, then it could be said that there are 220 species!
2 – They Have Amazing Head Rotation
There is a rumor that the owl is able to spin its head 360 degrees but this is not entirely true.
That said, the owl does have some pretty impressive skills when it comes to turning his head.
They can twist their necks up to 270 degrees allowing them to get a good look all around them!
The reason that they can do this without causing an injury is because of a blood pooling system which keeps the blood flow to the eyes and brain while the owl turns its head.
3 – Owls Cannot Chew
Unlike many other animals, owls are unable to chew their foods.
Instead, they will rip pieces off of their prey and swallow them, or, depending on the size of the owl and the size of the prey, they may eat the entire thing in one gulp!
If there are any parts of the prey that the owl cannot digest, it will bring these back up; this might include things like bones and fur. They regurgitate these as small pellets.
While other types of birds cannot chew, they are usually equipped with a small sac at the back of the throat, in which they can store food.
Owls don’t have this so they are one of the few avian species whose food goes directly to the stomach.
4 – Owls Cannot Move Their Eyes
Have you ever wondered why owls need to turn their heads so far around?
The answer is simple; they cannot move their eyes and so rely on head movements to see what’s going on in all directions.
Unlike other animals, owls do not have eyeballs. Instead they have tubes which run right to the back of the head.
While this characteristic does make owls incredible when it comes to hunting, it does them no favors when it comes to looking around.
5 – Owls Are Not Good Pets
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the owl is a highly sought-after animal; they’re so amazingly cute, after all.
But this doesn’t mean that you should keep one as a pet because the chances are, you won’t get along well with it.
These are wild animals that love their freedom and being trapped in a cage or the like may cause them to become aggressive.
It’s not uncommon for pet owls to harm their owners.
What’s more, owls aren’t the most affectionate birds on the planet and won’t take kindly to being petted.
Even with the best will in the world, it is extremely difficult to train an owl; they’re so very independent!
Our advice is to enjoy observing owls in the wild.
6 – Owls Are a Sad Symbol
While they may not make good pets, owls have been a point of interest for humans as far back as the ancient Egyptians who saw them as a symbol of death and mourning.
They were given the name ‘jmw’ which translates to mean ‘the one who laments’, who knew owls were linked with such sadness?
Over in ancient Rome, our avian friends were considered, once again, to be a sign of death. In this case, they were seen to be bringers of bad luck.
Owl In Dreams: It was believed that if you saw an owl in your dreams, you would soon meet with disaster. People believed this so strongly that they often nailed owls to their doors as a way of warding off harm.
7 – Owls Are Into Politics
OK, we might have elaborated a little bit there but we think it is super cute that a group of owls is known as a parliament!
It may also come as a surprise to learn that it was, in fact, C.S Lewis that coined this term in the well-loved book, The Chronicles of Narnia.
However, we also have to thank Chaucer since it was his poem The Parliament of Fowls that gave Lewis the inspiration for this.
In the story, a group of owls comes together during the cover of night to talk about what had been going on in Narnia.
But what’s most interesting of all is that you are highly unlikely to ever see a parliament of owls since these are very solitary creatures who spend most of their time alone.
8 – Owls Don’t Make a Nest
When you think of a bird, you think of that bird making a nest but this isn’t something that an owl troubles itself with.
This is largely because they don’t have the time and so they seek out alternative homes that have already been made for them.
That image of an owl in a hole in a tree isn’t so far from the truth.
There are some owls that will take over a pre-existing bird’s nest while others will seek refuge in man-made structures.
They aren’t too fussy when it comes to finding somewhere to take cover.
Even when it comes to mating and breeding, it is highly unlikely that an owl would fashion anything that truly resembled a bird’s nest.
9 – Owls Can Swim
Birds fly, right? Well, yes they do but when it comes to owls, they’re also pretty adept in the water.
It’s not an activity that they actively indulge in or enjoy but if there is a need then an owl won’t think twice about hopping into the water and having a swim.
They’ll typically do this as a last resort when they feel threatened.
Not to mention that once in the water, they find it very difficult to defend themselves as they use their wings to propel themselves through the water.
However, if there is no other escape, they’ll step up to the challenge.
10 – Not All Owls Live In Trees
We have established that some owls will take shelter in a hole in a tree but this is far from the only place you might find them.
There is one species, known as the burrowing owl who will dig a burrow and live underground!
But they’re not very common and are only found in the Southwestern parts of the USA.
If they cannot dig their own burrow, they may take over those of other animals such as the prairie dog.
They earned the nickname ‘the howdy owl’ from cowboys since you will often see them poking their heads up to say ‘hey’.
11 – Owls Have The Best Hearing of All Birds
Owls are amazing hunters and in order to be the best, they have to have very strong senses.
Their hearing is among the very best in the animal kingdom and certainly surpasses pretty much every other type of bird out there.
A barn owl, for example, can listen to sounds above 8.5khz and this helps it to pick up on small movements of its prey in the grass.
They can do this while flying and will even change their direction should the sound dictate that they need to.
There are other species of owl that are able to hunt while only relying on their hearing and no other senses.
This includes the great gray owl which has been known to detect prey moving around under the snow!
12 – Teeny Tiny Owls
As we have already discovered, there is an astonishing number of owls and some are very small.
The elf owl is found in Mexico and the Southwestern parts of the United States.
They are the smallest species of owl and measure just five inches in height. Their wingspan is a minute nine inches which, compared to some larger species, really is tiny.
Sadly, these teeny owls are heading towards being endangered. While not there yet, the population is vastly declining.
From Experience: You’ll usually find them living in old woodpecker holes and unlike their larger cousins, their cry sounds more like laughter. How cute!
13 – Ginormous Owls
At the other end of the scale, the Blakiston’s fish owl is the biggest type of owl with a massive wingspan of six feet.
We told you the elf owls were tiny in comparison! They can weigh as much as ten pounds and have a diet mainly of salmon.
You’ll find these giants living across northern parts of Asia as well as in Russia and their spread is as far as Japan.
But while they can be found in quite a few places, they are quite mysterious and secretive.
Much like their tiny cousins, the population is in decline and owing to things like deforestation, they could soon become endangered, especially considering how infrequently they breed.
14 – Some Owls Can Scream
Most people think of owls as adorable, fluffy creatures, but as we have already learned, they aren’t the most affectionate.
You’d probably think that owls only ever made sweet little hooting sounds but there are some that don’t sound quite as innocent.
Barn owls are a great example of this and when they are scared, they will make a long series of hissing sounds that grow in intensity.
This is a truly horrifying sound that has to be heard to be believed.
15 – Incredible Hunting Skills
We have already touched on the fact that owls are excellent hunters and this becomes even more evident when we learn that they can detect movement from prey from over half a mile away!
This is a trait of the Northern hawk owl which is one of the most exceptional in terms of hunting.
It is found in boreal forests and while it isn’t the biggest or most attractive owl, it certainly knows how to catch a meal.
16 – Owls Are Very Stealthy
You would think with those large wings that owls were pretty noisy as they moved around but the opposite is true.
When flying, it is impossible to hear the flight of the owl with your ear alone.
Usually birds’ wings will create wind resistance and this makes a sound but owls glide quietly, not making a sound which is perfect for sneaking up on their prey.
One of the main reasons for this is that an owl doesn’t have the downy feathers that a lot of other types of birds do.
Instead, they only have this on their undercoat which prevents as much wind resistance, therefore eliminating any sounds.
Moreover: The comb-like structures at the ends of their wings create far less resistance.
17 – Owls Are Cannibals
We told you number 17 would blow your mind!
Owls might look innocent but in reality, they don’t think twice about making a meal of one of their own.
Now, whether or not they display cannibalistic tendencies largely depends on the species of owl; not all of them do this.
Some owls, like that sweet little elf owl we met earlier on, tend to favor things like insects, spiders, and scorpions.
There are even some owls that eat fish, small mammals and rodents.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that owls are incredibly opportunistic and so some larger species are far less picky about what they have for dinner.
The great horned owl doesn’t think twice about taking on a porcupine and it has been known for them to try to attack small dogs.
But that’s nothing compared to the snowy owl who will seek out smaller species like the short-eared owl and chow down without a second thought!
18 – Mating For Life
Some species of owl will mate for life and they develop a strong bond with their significant other.
The most common example of this is the eastern screech owl which goes through a very complex mating ritual including a dance.
If the female is receptive to the male’s wooing, she will join beaks with him; all of this happens very quickly.
Once the pair have established a bond, they will head off together to find somewhere to call home.
They will remain as a pair for the rest of their lives and will usually return to the same spot for breeding each year.
19 – The Owl And The Pussycat
This old poem might not have gotten things all that wrong.
While we aren’t used to seeing owls and pussycats hanging out in boats, we could be accustomed to seeing an owl that strongly mimics our feline friends.
The long-eared owl has, as its name suggests, long ears with tufts at the top which are perfectly placed atop its head to resemble the ears of a cat.
What’s More: Instead of making that classic hooting sound, these owls sound much more like a screeching cat. It is for this reason that some people refer to them as the cat owl.
20 – Some Owls Wear Glasses
No, not actual bifocals or a pair of sunnies!
But there is one species of owl who is lovingly known as the spectacled owl for the pure and simple reason that the markings around its eyes make it look as though it is wearing a pair of glasses!
These small owls change color as they age with babies having the opposite colors to an adult.
They can be found in Central America, Mexico and parts of South America and usually live in jungles.
21 – Owls May Attack Humans
We told you owls didn’t make good pets.
But when you learn that they could attack a human, it becomes even more obvious that they should be left in the wild.
There’s no need to worry; owls don’t tend to go about the place randomly attacking. This usually only occurs when the animal feels scared or sometimes confused.
It could be that the owl might mix up your hair or a loose item of clothing with a prey animal and swoop in for the kill.
This is typically a problem for night hunters but there are animal calls you can use to deter our winged friends.
As you can see there are many facts about owls that lots of people don’t really know.
Owls are truly one of the most impressive birds you can see and such curious and intelligent creatures.
I love them and I hope you do too.