13 Fun Facts About Owls You Should Know
Here are some of the most fascinating and fun facts about owls, a one-of-a-kind group of birds. Learn about owl eyes, feet, sounds and more.
Not All Owls Hunt at Night
Fun facts about owls may be surprising. In fact, some owls are actually early birds, rising to hunt initially at dawn and again at dusk. Learn where birds sleep at night. Great gray owls and northern pygmy-owls remain active during the day when their preferred prey, small mammals and birds, are most prevalent.
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Owl Feet Are Versatile
Owls are zygodactyl, which means they have two pairs of toes on their feet that face different directions. Even more impressive, one of the toes can swivel back and forward to help them perch or catch their prey.
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Owl Eyes Are Specially Designed
Prominent yellow or dark owl eyes may seem round and nearly humanlike, but owls’ eyeballs are actually tube-shaped and cannot move in the socket. They also have three different eyelids to keep those peepers healthy and clean.
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Owl Necks Are Very Flexible
To make up for their static eyes, owls are able to rotate their heads 270 degrees. They have twice as many vertebrae in their neck as humans do, along with special circulatory adaptations to allow blood flow to the head when it’s fully turned.
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Adult Owls Come in Many Colors
Even within a single species, owls can be pale or dark or possibly sport different hues. It’s most obvious in eastern screech-owls, which have either gray or red feathers, or a brown coloring within that wide spectrum.
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Owls Have a Place in History
Here’s one of our favorite fun facts about owls—these beloved birds have played a part in many cultures, including that of the ancient Greeks. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and strategy, is often depicted with an owl. Today, Mr. Owl uses those smarts to discover how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, and Woodsy Owl offers the sage advice to never be a dirty bird and “Give a hoot, don’t pollute.”
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Male and Female Owls Are Different Sizes
Female owls tend to be larger than males in both wingspan and weight, although researchers are unsure why that’s the case.
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Owls Can Hiss in Defense
When an owl feels cornered or protective over its nest, the bird may make hissing sounds, fluff its facial feathers, raise its wings and fan out its tail feathers.
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Listen Close to Different Owl Sounds
The great horned has the soft, deep call many people associate with owl sounds, but not every member of the family musters a traditional owl hoot. Northern saw-whets, for example, are named after their unusual call, which sounds like the process of sharpening a saw on a whetstone.
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Owl Wings Have a Cool Design
Relative to the size of their bodies, owls have incredibly large wings that allow them to glide both slowly and silently. The structure of the feathers also diffuses some of the noise that flapping creates.
One Kind of Owl Stays on the Ground
Forget the treetops—burrowing owls live in underground dens in grasslands and deserts. They group together in colonies, residing in burrows left behind by animals such as prairie dogs, tortoises and skunks. They’ll spend most of their lives close to the ground, hunting and managing the nest.
Check out 8 different kinds of bird nests and how to spot them.
Owl Ears Are in Two Different Positions
To pinpoint the location of prey, many owls have asymmetric ears—usually with one ear positioned higher or lower on its head—hidden underneath layers of feathers. Here’s a fun fact about owls to share. The two large feather tufts that long-eared owls sport at the top of their heads have nothing to do with their hearing; scientists believe they help the bird blend into its surrounding.
Next, meet more raptors, amazing birds of prey.