Owls are a majestic bird. The larger species of owl are magnificent birds with a very distinctive dish-shaped face. Some species of owl are fairly common and can often be heard hooting in the evening, but other species of owl are much harder to find these days. The owl family includes many species we are probably familiar with, thanks to much loved children’s stories (barn owls and snowy owls to name just two), but aside from the fact we know owls have excellent eye sight and often hunt at night, what other 10 interesting facts about owls are there?
1. In nature, the male of the species is very often larger and more aggressive than the female, but female owls are usually much larger than the males. They are also a lot more aggressive and have brighter colouring on their feathers.
2. A flying owl is virtually silent, which makes him the ultimate predator at night. Owls can achieve this because they have special feathers designed to muffle sound. They are also have a long wingspan and lightweight bodies, which cuts down noise.
3. An owl’s eyes are fixed in their sockets, so in order to see in different directions, he has to move his head—and he can do this a massive 270 degrees in either direction, rather like the Exorcist girl!
4. Owls may have excellent far-sighted vision, but they can’t see their prey when it is a few centimetres away, so once they have a tasty mouse locked in their talons, they use small feathers on the feet and beak to sense their prey.
5. The smallest owl (the diminutive Elf Owl) is only 31g in weight, but the largest owls are eagle owls—they can have a wingspan of 6.6 feet in length and a fully grown female eagle owl can weigh as much as 4.5kg.
6. We tend to think of owls as being nocturnal, but owls also hunt during daylight hours and can be seen out and about at all times of the day, depending on their habitat and what food is available.
7. Owls have been around for a very long time and the earliest fossilised owl remains date back 58 million years ago. There are also references to owls in Mayan art and in Egyptian hieroglyphics.
8. Unfortunately the poor owl has had some bad PR over the yeas and superstitious people believe owls are associated with bad luck and even death. The Aztec God of Death was often shown with owls and in some cultures, owls are seen as harbingers of the dead, stealing souls and carrying them off to the underworld. Native Americans believe that if an owl flies over your head, someone close to you will be dead within a week.
9. Owls are predators and enjoy a nice meat dinner. The owl’s main food source is small rodents and some owl species can happily consume around 3 mice per night when prey is plentiful.
10. Owls make all kinds of strange noises to communicate. They hoot, a sound that we are all familiar with, but they also whistle, bark, hiss and screech, particularly during the nesting season when they are in communication with their young.