17 Fascinating Owl Facts You Didn’t Know (2020)

Tori Rhodes
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An owl’s flattened face funnels sound to their ears

Hearing is one of an owl’s most important sense. An owl’s ears are lined with asymmetrical feathers to focus and direct sound waves into their ears.

As for the shape of their face, an owl’s face is as flat as it could possibly be. This shape is called a “stepped profile,” which focuses sound directly into the ears.

The shape of the head is also critical to fly without a big teardrop-shaped radar profile on his back. If the owl has a teardrop-shaped head and body, the wind flowing over the head would create a lot of noise and turbulence in the air behind him, making it easier for prey to hear him coming, and it would reduce his lift and speed. It would function like the teardrop shape of a stealth bomber instead of the silencer on a gun.

Of course, it’s also likely that the shape of an owl’s face also provides the best hearing. It’s just that their hearing is so good that they can easily hear all those noise the shape of their face creates. So, the shape of the face is actually either a side-effect or a design feature that is actually an advantage for an owl’s hearing.

Not all owls are nocturnal

Despite their nighttime habits, owls are actually diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and sleep at night. Nocturnal animals like raccoons and skunks sleep during the day and are most active at night.

Owls eat mice too!

Yes. Many owls are considered “small rodentivores,” meaning they consume small rodents. A regular diet of mice is rich with a number of nutrients, but an owl’s diet does not have to be restricted to mice alone.

Birch and Willow Trees Are the Favorite Owl Breeding Grounds

As a matter of fact, many smaller, non-parrot species of owls nest in or around the birch and willow trees. In fact, more than sixty species of owls are dependent on the trees for their breeding grounds.

Owls poop through their mouth

Yes, you read that right. Owls poop through their mouth. Have you ever wondered why they often appear to be hanging around, staring at you?

It’s because they aren’t able to move their eyes separately, so they must turn their heads to see an object. They also don’t have a neck collar bone, so they can’t swivel their heads back like other birds can.

Owls use their eyes and ears to hunt, rather than their vision, and their heads jut forward, not up and down like other birds.

These birds have serrated edges on their beaks, which help them rip the flesh from their prey’s bones.

Birds of prey have big jaws to help them rip their prey to pieces. Owls have a wider gape than many other birds, which makes them have the widest range of prey among any bird group.

Owls are highly intelligent

Owls are well-known and popular even among laymen. This is due, first of all, to the presence of owl images in books, posters, calendars and corporate advertisements. In addition, these birds are remarkable and interesting for other reasons.

Owls’ feathers are well suited for flying in the darkness. Their hearing is adapted for their life in the night. Therefore, these birds are often called nocturnal, many can not see during the day and are active exclusively at night. It is quite a rare bird that can see well at night. Their hearing is so good that even the human ear is not better than their ability to hear. An owl can hear prey move even in the middle of the forest or in other open terrain. These birds have also excellent night vision and can see clearly at night with almost the same quality as we see during the day.

Owls have the most powerful sight among animals. Owls are used to distinguish the individual parts of the mouse from the ground and from a distance of one kilometer (0.62 miles).

Owls have developed the ability to vibrate the wings during flight. Despite the fact that owls are more active at night, they still fly during the day. But the flight of these beautiful birds is hardly noticeable from the ground.

Owls can turn their heads 270 degrees

In many bird species, the neck is connected to the thorax by loose skin or a fold of skin. This allows them to turn their head through a wide angle.

This loose skin also allows a bird to swallow large prey whole without needing to turn the head into the throat.

There are some species of owl, however, that have the same skeletal structure (and hence, the same range of movement) as humans. For example, a barn owl has a ball and socket neck and can swivel its head through an angle of 225 degrees.

The bowing owl is capable of turning its head up to 270 degrees. Some birds of prey are even capable of turning their heads a full circle.

Owl flight is silent

Owls use faint ruffling noises as calls, and their flight is silent due to a fringe on the leading edge of their flight feathers that acts as a sound-absorbing buffer.

Owls sometimes eat other owls

Owls will eat other bird types, including smaller owls. Biologists use the term “obligate scavengers” to describe owls that will eat basically anything they can swallow.

They sometimes arrive first at the site of a predator’s kill, and when other scavengers are less invasive. The sharp talons of the barn owl make it easy to tear flesh and feathers. Once the meal is in a shredded state, it is quickly swallowed.

The nocturnal birds are also aggressive towards other predators. Many owls eat similarly sized and flown birds. The great horned owl is a master of disguise, and has been known to impersonate a vulture to attack smaller birds that were trying to scavenge a carcass.

Undersized owls who are unable to catch their own prey sometimes take food from the mouths of other of prey animals. The tiny elf owl, for example, will take food from mice, a source of food that is easy for them to capture, but larger than the owl itself. One technique used by more northern species of owls is kleptoparasitism, where they will steal prey from other predator birds.

Owls feed the strongest babies first

To keep their nest clean of food debris, parents bring food to the nest mainly on the side where their nestlings are. Stronger owlets peck at weaker nestlings to empty the crop and the parents bring food on the empty side.

This assures that the more competent owlets get more food.

Owls are farsighted

This means that their eyes are more suited to seeing objects from far away than those that are close by. This is why owls are active at night and why they have a small pupil, to help block out ambient light.

Unlike humans, who can only see objects if they are at a close distance, owls can see 100% accurately up to 2 feet away. This is why it can often be very difficult to spot an owl perched in a tree trunk during the day time.

Many owl species have asymmetrical ears

This may be one of the reasons why owls are so good at hearing low-frequency sounds, particularly prey that makes those low-frequency sounds when it’s on the ground.

Their ear openings are situated in a way that captures acoustic information from both sides of their heads.

They can rotate their heads 270 degrees around – a trait that allows them to pick up all the sounds around them. Although they can rotate their heads to a much greater extent, they rarely need to do so.

Owls live mostly in densely wooded areas and can locate prey by hearing their calls.

Owls have amazing hearing and can detect sound frequencies that are higher than what humans can hear. This means that they are even able to hear the high-pitched sounds of mice squeaking underground.

Although most owls have two sets of ear openings, one set on each side of their head, barn owls have asymmetrical ears. These are located closer to the middle of their heads, which indicates that low-frequency sounds travel better to the ear on the right side of the head; while high-frequency sounds travel better to the ear on the left side.

This is also why barn owls fly relatively close to the ground and spend more time on one spot.

Not all owls hoot

Some don’t, as it’s only found in some species.

As previously mentioned, not all owls hoot. Some don’t, as it’s only found in some species. owls also don’t have ear flaps.

Male and female owls typically look the same. They have similar markings and colors on their feathers. Burrowing owls are the exception of this as the females are typically larger and are usually more brightly colored than the males.

Owls are from the order Strigiformes. This means that they are referred to as strigid owls. They are not owls strictly speaking, but they are from the same order.

There are different owl species. In fact, there are over 200 different owl species.

Owls are not completely nocturnal. Although most owls are known to be nocturnal owls, they can become active in both the day and night spectrums since they are prey animals, and constantly on guard from predators.

Owls are born blind. Just like we are, owls come into this world without eyesight.

Owls are omnivores. They will eat almost anything … large insects, small animals, rodents, small birds, fish, carrion, etc.

Owls have zygodactyl feet

Not all owls have four toes, but many do. Most have two toes in front, and two behind, but the toes are arranged so the front ones oppose rather than point straight ahead.

What do they call this? It’s called a zygodactyl foot. It’s an arrangement that’s also seen in some other birds, apparently.

Owls don’t have eyeballs, they have eye “tubes”

Probably one of the weirdest facts about owls is the fact that they don’t have actual eyeballs!

Instead, they have structures called tubular eyes that look like tubes and that detect light.

These structures are specialized to collect light with a reflective layer of cells called the •tapetum lucidum, that “bounce back” and enhance the light that enters the structure for better night vision.

This is totally unlike the human eye, which has a reflective layer (the cornea) but there isn’t one in animals, and especially birds.

Owls also have a protective third eyelid (which is a structure behind your eyelids). This structure is transparent, but doesn’t have any function in humans (it provides extra protection to the eye).

There are also special feathers around the eyes that prevent zoon”s from seeing the eyes of the owls during flight.

Owls aren’t great nest-builders

They usually don’t build a nest at all, but use whatever is handy, be it a rock crevice, man-made structure or even your barn. The nest is built around the eggs, not by the parents.

Female owls are larger than male owls

Female owls may be smaller in size than males, but they are actually larger after all. Do you know why? Male owls are territorial and philandering, often killing siblings sired by a previous mating and chasing away the female since they are interested in mating with her again as soon as possible.

In most other bird species, this would be due to high testosterone levels, but owls are unique in their own way. Because of this, the female owl has evolved to become larger than the male to ensure on her own that she can better protect her young.

Larger females are better able to protect their young, rear them, and fend off predators. Larger females are even better able to defend their territories from other female owls to ensure safety for their broods.

The female owl is so proficient that she knows how to manage the offspring left by a male owl and even to find a way to get along with her own offspring. Female owls are bigger physically with larger and stronger beaks. Owls with large females typically have larger and stronger offspring.

Thus, the female owl has evolved to survive over the male owl. When you look at the physical characteristics of owls, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

An owl’s eye color indicates when it prefers to hunt

The snowy owl has amber eyes, and they live in the northern regions of the US and Canada. Some owls have yellow eyes when they are young but switch to brown as they mature.

White-eyed owls are mostly nocturnal. They are from the Old World, meaning they mostly live in the middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Yellow-eyed snowy owls are in the Old World and are mostly migratory.

A few owls across the world live in mostly barren areas and so do not require much food. These species have brown eyes. The Arabian owl is one such species and is mostly found in the Arabian desert.

Some owls have different colored eyes due to the different amounts of light. The snowy owl has a lighter at the front than at the back, but the amount of light is the same. This causes this beautiful owl to appear to have two different colored eyes.

An owl has three eyelids

While we have just one upper eyelid, owls have three. It’s a very small third eyelid often visible as a nictitating membrane. It can be found on most birds but it’s bigger, more pronounced and protective on owls.

The primary purpose of the third eyelid is to moisten and clean the eye since they don’t produce tears. The fact that it has a transparent nictitating membrane also gives the owl a distinct advantage over humans in some important senses.

These three eyelids also give them a unique way to help them see at night. The third translucent eyelid actually helps the owl to focus at night. It creates a higher amount of pressure on the owl’s eye when it is fully closed and helps them to see more clearly in the dark. Some owls also have another characteristic: a “pineal eye” that is used to detect light.