When I was I kid I was afraid of owls. I heard a lot of scary stories and myths about them and since I was a kid, I believed those stories. I even dreamt about them a few times, their big, wide-open eyes looking at me like they are about to do something evil. Then, I grew up and realized that owls are not that scary at all, but are so cute and have some amazing abilities.
Ever wanted to have eyes on your back? Well, owls kind of do
They don’t really have eyes on their back, but since they can rotate their heads 135 degrees in both directions, or 270 degrees in total, so they can see almost anything that’s not in front of them. It is not true that owls can rotate their heads 360 degrees, that is just another myth among many others about these interesting and adorable birds.
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They gather in parliaments
I bet you can imagine owls having their own parliament discussion and I can bet you that it would be the most civilized discussion in any parliament, anywhere, with arguments delivered in perfect order, preferably with a British accent. Ever since C.S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia described a meeting of owls, a group of owls has been called a parliament.
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Their eyes don’t move at all
We talked about owls rotating their heads, but they don’t just do it for fun. Since owls have eyes that are fixed in place the ability to rotate their heads is crucial for them to see. Owls can see in the dark thanks to their big, big eyes and they can see far away since they are far-sighted. That also means that their sight is pretty bad up close, so whenever you see a drawing of an owl reading a book, you can know that’s not for real. Unless they are wearing glasses, of course.
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They can hear you wherever you hide
Owls can hear their prey wherever they are hidden thanks to their super hearing. Many owl species have ears that are different in size and located in different height on their heads, so they look asymmetrical. This helps them to cover different sound waves at once and locate the prey they don’t even see. Some other owls use their flat faces that have special feathers that help them focus sound as one big ear.
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They are great at hide and seek
You think the fact that you can’t hide from an owl is fascinating? How about the fact that you will probably have trouble seeing one too? Since many owls sleep during the day, they have learned to use their colors and markings to camouflage perfectly and blend in with their surroundings.
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You can’t hear them flying
If you are prey to an owl you’re going to need a lot of luck to survive. In addition to their excellent camouflage technique, great vision and perfect hearing owls can also fly without making a sound. They have special feathers which enable them to fly very quietly.
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They have many voices and sounds
You know that hoot sound that owls make? Well, that’s just one of many different vocalizations of an owl, used usually for marking their territory. They can also hiss, screech and even scream similar to people. Some of these sounds are used to issue a threat and some are love calls for their mates. I guess these sounds are one of the reasons that owls are considered scary and bad luck. Just listen to this and try not to become afraid.
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Some species live in burrows
Although most owl species live in trees and your barns or attics, there are some of them that live on the ground, in burrows dug up by prairie dogs or squirrels. They also hunt at night, but in addition to flying they can also run and capture their prey that way since they have long and very strong legs.
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Owls eat their prey whole
Yeah, they don’t chew. They just swallow. Owls first crush their prey to death and then just swallow it. If the meal is too big it first gets ripped to smaller pieces. Those parts that owls can’t digest (fur or bones for example) are barfed out in the form of pellets.
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Owls are used as pest control
Owls can eat a lot. A lot. And since they eat rodents farmers have grown to like them. One barn owl family can eat around 3000 rodents in four months. That is enough reason for people to try and lure them to nest near their crops or gardens. This form of pest control is much safer and cheaper than poison.
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Owls are very popular in human culture
Owls have been known to humans for a long time and are symbols in many ancient cultures. There are images of owls in cave paintings, they are found in Egyptian hieroglyphics and even in some Mayan art. However, they are today associated with bad luck, stealing souls and even death in many cultures, without any basis in reality.
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You can drink coffee with them in Japan
Despite those silly superstitions about owls, people have learned to accept and love these fascinating birds. They are intelligent and sociable, but you should know that it is illegal to have them as pets in the USA. However, in Japan, you can hang out with them in special cafes. Just imagine sipping tea or coffee in this owl café while a bunch of cute owls look at you with those big eyes.
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