My first up-close and personal experience with an owl was during an excursion to Australia, while visiting a wildlife preserve. During a falconry exhibit, the owl flew to the handler’s arm, retrieved his mouse snack, and then returned to a perch above my head. Seconds later, the hind-end of a mouse landed on the bleachers between me and the shrieking woman to my left.
Strange, because I have since learned that owls devour their prey whole. I suppose this was a sloppy owl.
Owls have always held a certain mysterious air about them. Often associated with Halloween, scary movies and books, and even traditionally symbolizing wisdom and education in mainstream culture, the owl has long been a bird of interest. But it was the Harry Potter craze that seemed to kick off the owl obsession within pop culture. A few years ago, you couldn’t walk into any store without seeing fifteen different kinds of owl cookie jars, towels, and ashtrays.
Owls are well-deserving of their popularity. These nocturnal birds are amazing, and the features that equip them for their extraordinary hunting abilities are equally awe-inspiring.
There are over two hundred species of owls. The smallest is an elf owl (weighing about thirty-one grams) and the largest is believed to be the great grey owl, with a wing span of more than five feet (although there is some dispute between which owl is bigger–the great grey or Blakiston’s fish owl).
Owls have specially designed feathers to allow them to fly silently. They have binocular vision, binaural hearing (the ability to hear in both ears), and they can rotate their heads 270 degrees. Some owls detect prey up to a half a mile away, and they eat up to 1,000 mice a year.
In the United States, it is illegal to keep an owl for a pet, unless you have a special permit to keep them as part of an educational, breeding, or wildlife facility. Just in case some of you were considering the possibility…
What’s your favorite bird?