Owls are enigmatic, mysterious, adorable or phantasmagorical birds, depending on the individual. With over 200 species living on every continent except Antarctica, they have super-tuned senses that help them hunt their prey all over the world. And they are also, particularly pretty.
15 surprising and mysterious facts about owls that make them so special.
1 Owls can turn their heads almost completely.
These birds cannot actually rotate their heads 360 degrees. In fact, they can turn it 135 degrees in both directions, giving them 270 degrees of total movement. According to scientists, bony adaptations, blood vessels with contractile reservoirs and a supportive vascular network allow them to turn their heads without cutting off blood to the brain. See: https://mentalfloss.com/article/48681/how-can-owls-rotate-their-heads-270-degrees-without-dying
2 They have tubular eyes.
Instead of spherical eyeballs, owls have “eye tubes” that run far up their skulls – meaning their eyes are fixed, so they have to turn their heads to see. The size of their eyes helps them see in the dark and their vision allows them to spot prey from a few feet away. Up close, everything is blurry and they need small hair-like feathers on their beaks and legs to smell their food.
3 They have excellent hearing.
They are able to hear their prey under leaves, plants, dirt and snow. Some owls have ears at different heights on their heads, which allows them to locate their prey based on small differences in sound waves. Other owls have flat faces with special feathers that focus the sound, essentially turning their face into one big ear. (The ear tufts for some owls are feathers.)
4 They fly silently.
Unlike most birds, they make almost no noise when they fly. They have special feathers that break up the turbulence into weaker currents, which reduces the sound. The soft velvet reduces the noise.
5 Owls and swallow prey whole.
Getting killed by an owl is horrible. First, the owl grabs the prey and crushes it with its powerful talons. Then, depending on the size, it eats the whole prey or tears it apart. Its digestive tract processes the body and parts that cannot be digested, such as fur and bones, which it regurgitates later. Sometimes the waste is collected for children to dissect at school.
6 They sometimes eat other owls.
Owls eat surprisingly large prey (some species, like the great horned owl, can even catch small deer), they also eat other owl species. The great horned owl, for example, will attack the barred owl. The barred owl, in turn, will sometimes eat the screech owl. In fact, owl-on-owl predation may account for some of the decline in the number of cuckoo calls in western regions.
7Owls feed the hardiest babies first.
As hard as it may seem, parents always feed the oldest and strongest before the others. This means that if food is scarce, the younger chicks will starve. When the bird leaves the nest, it often lives nearby in the same tree and its parents still bring it food. If it can survive the first winter alone, its chances of survival are good.
8 They are masters of camouflage.
Many owls sleep in broad daylight, but the colors and spots on their feathers – like the African-Korean owl – blend in perfectly with their surroundings .
9 Sometimes they make a frightening sound of terror.
Aside from screeching, owls make a variety of calls, from screams and whistles to squeaks. The scary owl hisses when it feels threatened, which sounds like a nightmare.
10 The cactus owl is the small
This small owl lives in the southwestern United States and Mexico. It will sometimes make its home in the giant saguaro cactus, in holes made by other animals. However, it is not picky and will also live in trees or on telephone poles.