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Facts About Owls

If you’ve ever seen this nighttime animal before, you know that the owl has big, curious eyes and makes a unique “hoot” sound.

Owls are almost famous for their wise appearance, because their intelligent eyes glow and they stare so intensely.

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Different Owls

Common Owl Species

The owl has been the subject of folklore in many civilizations all over the world. It’s thought that their popularity stems from their looks.

Their eyes and feathers beneath their beaks give them a human-like appearance. They have a more human-like sound or voice as well.

They do a lot more than just hoot all night long! Let’s explore some owl facts!

owl facts

Where do owls live? 

Owls can be found in all different types of habitats, and every continent except Antarctica contains species of owls.

You can find owls in many places, from forests and deserts to mountains and prairies.

owls-live-in-mountains

It all depends on which species of owl you’re talking about, and there are a staggering 150 documented species of owls (possibly even more, depending on how you classify the different species).

19 species of owls are found in North America, including the following: barn owl, burrowing owl, eastern screech owl, great grey owl, spotted owl, and the long-eared owl, among many others.

No matter where the owl lives, one thing is certain – they are most active at night. Unlike us humans, owls are nocturnal and prefer to stay awake and be active at night.

This is why a person who enjoys staying up late at night is often jokingly called a night owl!

Where do Owls Live?

Owls can be found in coniferous forests, mountains, deserts, and plains, among other places.

The snowy owl is a northern bird that lives in the frigid tundra.
Owls use a number of methods to build their nests.

Old hawk or squirrel nests are home to several species of owls, including great horned owls and great grey owls.

owls for kids

Most owls do not go through the trouble of making their own nest – they just use an old tree cavity or another’s bird’s old nest.

What do owls eat?

Although their diet largely depends on the species of owl, most owls like to eat insects, small mammals (like hares and rabbits), and other smaller birds.

It is also common for owls to eat rodents, squirrels, bats, weasels, woodchucks, and even the random domestic cat as well.

Aren’t you happy that your diet isn’t like an owl’s diet?

Some owls, such as the Asian Fish Owl and the African Fishing Owl, can catch fish and eat them.

It’s a horrific experience to be slain by an owl. The owl first captures the prey and crushes it with its powerful talons. The prey is then either eaten whole or ripped apart, depending on the size of the meal. After this the pieces that can’t be digested well, such as fur and bones, are compacted into a pellet, and spat out.

owl on perch

Owls very rarely drink water – they get most of the hydration they need from the prey they feast on. It is quite rare to see an owl drinking water, but you might see them taking a bath.

When an owl bathes, some of the water is consumed by the owl they will store this excess water in their body for later use, similar to how they store food.

Do owls have teeth? No. Owls cannot actually chew their food because they do not have teeth. They have to use their beak to tear apart their food and eat it.

What do owls look like?

Most owls have notably large eyes, a flat face, and a large head. They also have a small, hooked beak that is downturned.

Owls generally have a rigid posture. Imagine trying to stand as straight as possible all of the time – the owl naturally has excellent posture!

bird
Another bird of prey!

Owls are birds of prey, meaning they have to hunt for food to survive. For this reason, they have very large, sharp talons used for catching their food.

There are four toes on these talons, and one is opposable (like the human thumb) aiding owls in grasping things like tree branches and prey.

The size of an owl may vary, but most owls are at the lower end of the size range, with lengths of about 13–70 cm (5–28 inches) and wingspans between 0.3–2.0 meters (1–6.6 feet).

Females and males often look very similar, but the females are usually about 25 percent larger.

owl hunting for prey

Most owls have asymmetrical ears. Because their ears are at different heights on their heads, it is easier for them to understand where multiple sounds are coming from.

An owl’s eyelids have three functions: one for blinking, one for sleeping, and one for keeping the owl’s eyes clean.

How Long do Owls Live

Owls can live up to 25 years, although the average life expectancy for most species is likely to be far less. Most owl species live longer than their smaller counterparts.

The Great Horned Owl lives the longest of all the owls and some of these owls have lived more than 27 years.

Male vs Female Owls

The female owls are actually noticeably larger than the male owls. Not only that, female owls are more colorful with a louder voice. Looks like they have a lot over the poor male owls.

Behavior Of Owls

Owls are nocturnal, usually pretty light sleepers and will wake at the slightest disturbance.

Owls usually perch with a forward facing slouch and sleep with their head turned up at an alarming 270 degrees.

They are rather quiet during the day and they cant be normally spotted until dusk.

Are owls smart? Owls are less intelligent than parrots and crows.

They can make a variety of sounds ranging from whistles to screams, snorts, hisses and chitters. Hooting sound is made to assert territorial claims or when there is a predator nearby. Not all owls hoot.

Owls are fearless, and unlike most other birds they will not fly away when humans get close.

Baby Owls

Owlet is the name given to young baby owls who have not matured and developed all their feathers.

baby owls
baby owls

Baby owls cannot fly, but can leave their nest and walk. Parent owls protect their owlets fiercely .

Some of the baby owlets start hunting early and will hunt beetles, worms and even frogs.

Fun Facts about Owls

A group of owls is actually called a parliament. Ha Ha

Believe it or not, although owls mostly vary in size and appearance, they have one interesting ability in common – they can turn their heads an astonishing 270 degrees!

This is thanks to their necks containing double the amount of vertebrae “normal” birds have in their necks. It makes for a very funny sight to see.

Believe it or not, despite having very large eyes, owls do not have eyeballs. They actually have something more like eye tubes.

owl eyes

Lengthened and held in place by sclerotic rings – a bony structure in the skull – this interesting feature means that owls can’t really move or roll their eyes.

Owls are very silent fliers. Seriously, they don’t make a peep when they fly. This is due mainly to very broad wings and special flying feathers that limit noise when an owl flaps its wings.

Believe it or not, despite popular belief, not all owls make that infamous “hoot” sound.

shouting-owl

Owls can actually make many different sounds – they can screech, hiss, and even growl!

Barn owls are monogamous and will stay together for the rest of their lives. When they’re together with their partner and babies, they embrace and kiss each other. In the event that their partners dies, the other gets despondent and may even die.

eagle owl
A Big Eagle Owl

Certain species, such as the eagle owl, not only attack and consume large prey such as baby deer, but they also eat other owl species. The barred owl, for example, is known to be attacked and eaten by great horned owls. The Western screech owl is preyed on by the barred owl. As a matter of fact, owl-on-owl predation is a reason why some of the species are endangered.

Owls must swivel their heads to look since their eyes are set in place. Their large eyes let them see in the dark, and they’re far-sighted, so they can identify prey from hundreds of yards away. Everything appears hazy up close, and they rely on fine, hair-like feathers on their beaks and feet to detect food.

Owls have superb hearing and can detect prey hidden beneath leaves, plants, soil, and snow.

The strongest and oldest owlets are always fed first, followed by its siblings. Survival of the fittest!

Owls consume a large number of rodents. In a 4 month breeding cycle, one barn owl family can easily consume 3000 rodents.

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