Owls are not regarded as the most intelligent bird but, definitely considered as the most represented bird of intelligence and wisdom. They are excellent hunters and most noiseless flyers. They often symbolize as victory and death also but, today they are loved by all. These feathery, wide eyed birds are cute and their hoots are unmistakably recognizable. Beyond these characteristics they have much more that will amaze you and we have bring those unknown facts.
1. Owls are of 2 types, The Barn owls, which have a heart shaped face and belong from Tytonidae family. The other ones belong from Strigidae family. Although all owls are different in appearance. There are more than 200 species of owls worldwide.
The most popular is the Great horned owl in America. Whereas the Blakiston’s fish owl is the largest and endangered species of owls. These colorful owls are so rare and can be found in Russia, China and Japan. In contrary the smallest is the Elf owl measuring only 5-6 inches in length.
2. Parents feed the strongest owlet first, meaning in case of food scarce, the youngest would starve. Even after leaving parents nest they live nearby branches in the same tree. If the owlet survive the first winter than it’s survival chances are considered good.
3. Owls are nocturnal, so their eyes are well built also. Their eyeballs are long tubular in shape, which make them far sighted. The large eyeballs are 1-5% of their body weight and can receive a lot of light, and having a layer of tissue called Tapetum lucidum at the back of their eyes acts like a mirror. Which helps them to see minimum movements in complete darkness. Although at near their sight is blurry and they don’t have excellent color vision.
4. They have three eyelids. One for blinking, one for sleeping, and the other for keeping the eyes healthy and clean.
5. They can not turn their head 360 as many of us know. In fact, owls are able to move their head 135 degrees on each side making a wide 270 degree view of angle. It is because they can’t move their tubular far sighted eyeballs as round eyeballs can be done. They need to move their head in order to place their eyes on any object. So, they have specially built blood vessels which don’t cut off blood flow to the brain during these head turns and don’t damage any muscle.
6. They do have powerful and very sharp talons, in fact so powerful that it kills the prey immediately simply by crushing. It is calculated that an average owls grip is stronger than a human and all due to their bony structure of the feet. They have 3 toes at front and 1 toe at back to maintain balance.
7. They are known as the silent predators of night and for good reason. They seriously fly noiseless, in fact owls have the most noiseless flight in all of the bird species. Their special soft feathers acts as mufflers and absorb sound. Their feathers are also well put together, that it cut through the air and make smooth air current flow, which also minimize the turbulence created behind the wings. You probably won’t hear an owl flying towards you until it is few inches away.
8. Most of the owls do hoot, but not all of them. Some of them sounds like chirping and whistling. But, some make a horrifying screech or hissing sound while threatened. It is a such scary sound.
9. They can’t chew and eat their prey whole. They tear up the prey in to pieces that fit in their mouth and swallow. But unlike other birds they have weak stomach acid that they can’t digest bones, furs or feathers. So they make pellets and regurgitate them out. Sounds weird but, if you pull a pellet and find the objects you can have the idea of their eating habit.
10. Owl babies are called owlets. At this time they rely on their parents for food and their plumage hasn’t fully developed. They do have fluffy feathers and markings. Owlets can’t fly but leave their nest and roam nearby brunches to strengthen their wings.
11. Their head is flat shaped, meaning any sound just get reflected and directed to the ears. Their ears are also asymmetrical and placed at different heights on the sides of their head. As a predatory bird it is an adaptation helping them to receive different sounds with pinpoint locating capability, even they can pick any sound under from leaves or logs on the forest floor such as, the Hawk owl can detect its prey as much as 12 inches under the snow.
12. They sleep on high tree holes or branches during the day, and they are quite hard to detect in the wild due to their feather color. Their feathers give them well camouflage and help to blend in the surrounding.
13. In ancient Greece, an Owl was the companion of Athena (Greek goddess of wisdom). which is the reason owls are symbolized learning, knowledge and the protector of armies going into war. If Greek soldiers saw an owl fly by during battle, they took it as a sign of coming victory.
While on other hand in some cultures they are linked with superstition, evil and death. In South Africa they are associated with witchcraft and bad luck, even calling someone an ‘owl’ is the highest insult.
14. They are one of the most ancient species of birds. The Berruornis and Ogygoptynx are some species that lived 60 million years ago.
15. Some owls are diurnal, meaning they hunt during the day. This includes the Great gray owl, Northern hawk owl, and Northern pygmy owl.
16. Their eye color indicates their preferred hunting time. Owls with orange eyes are crepuscular, dark brown or black eyed owls are nocturnal and yellow eye indicate owls that are diurnal.