Owls are birds from the order Strigiformes, and it encompasses over 200 species of mainly isolated and nighttime birds of prey.
It can be identified by its vertical position, big, broad head, sharp talons, binocular vision, binaural hearing, and feathers modified for quiet flight.
The gregarious burrowing owl and diurnal northern hawk-owl are not including in the category. Owls generally hunt insects, small mammals, and other birds.
Some species specialize in fish-hunting, and they are found in all areas of the world except the polar frost caps and a few remote islands.
Owls are divided into two families: the ordinary owl family, Strigidae, and the barn-owl family, Tytonidae.
Table of Contents
- Scientific classification
- Difference between a male owl and a female owl
- Modifications for hunting
- Hearing ability
- Mode of living
- Reproduction in owls
- Do owls attack humans?
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Clade: Afroaves
- Order: Strigiformes
Owls have enormous, forward-facing eyes & ear-holes, a flat face, a hawk-like beak, a noticeable circle of feathers, and a facial disc. The quills that make up this disc can be modified to focus sounds from ranging lengths into the owls’ irregular positioned ear cavities.
Most birds of prey possess eyes on the sides of their heads, but the virtual nature of the owl’s forward-facing sights allows an incredible sense of deep visibility necessary for low-light hunting.
Although owls have a binocular perception, their huge eyes are fixed in their sockets—just like most other birds—so they must turn their whole heads to change views.
Since owls are long-sighted, they are incapable of totally see anything within a few centimeters of their sights. Owls can feel its grabbed prey with the use of filoplumes—hairlike feathers on the beak and feet. Their distant vision, especially in low light, is perfect.
Owls can turn their heads and necks as far as 270°. It has 14 neck vertebrae compared to seven in humans, which increases the flexibility in their throat. Owl also possesses adaptations to their circulatory systems, enabling rotation without stopping the flow of blood to the brain.
A diverse variety of owls generate different sounds. This dispersion of calls aids owls in locating mates or announcing their presence to probable adversaries. Their facial discs allow owls to direct the sound of prey to their ears.
Owl feathers are naturally obscure, although various species possess a head and facial markings, comprising ear tufts, face masks, and brilliantly colored eyes.
These markings are typically more prevalent in species inhabiting open environments and are believed to be utilized in signaling with other owls in low-light situations.
Difference between a male owl and a female owl
Females owls are generally more prominent than males. The level of size difference varies across many populations and species and is assessed through several traits, such as body mass and wingspan.
One of the many theories indicates that choice has led males to be smaller because it enables them to be efficient hunters. Proficiency in acquiring more food is favorable during the breeding season.
In some species, female owls remain in their nest with their eggs while the male has to bring back food to the nest. Nonetheless, if food is insufficient, the male first nourishes himself before feeding the female owl. Agile little birds are an essential source of food for owls.
Male digging owls have been examined to have more extended wing chords than females, despite being smaller than female owls. Similarly, owls are known to be about a similar size to their prey.
It has also been observed in other predatory birds, which implies that owls with tinier bodies and lengthy wing chords have been chosen due to their enhanced agility and momentum that lets them catch their target.
Modifications for hunting
All owls are carnivorous birds and live primarily on the sustenance of insects and little rodents such as rats, mice, and hares. Few owls are also specially designed for hunting fish.
They are incredibly proficient in hunting in their respective habitats. Since owls are located in almost all parts of the planet and across several ecosystems, their hunting abilities and traits differ slightly from species to species.
However, most features are shared amongst all species.
Most owls possess a natural means to fly almost silently and also more slowly in comparison to others. Some owls inhabit a night lifestyle, and being able to glide without making any disturbance provides them with a definite advantage over their target that is listening for the least sound in the night.
A silent, steady flying is not as essential for crepuscular and diurnal owls given that prey see an owl coming.
While the biological and morphological tools of this quiet flight are more or less mysterious, the structure of their feather has been heavily researched and accredited to a vast portion of the reason they possess this skill.
Sight is a unique trait of the owl that support in nocturnal target capture. Owls are amongst the small faction of birds that dwell nocturnally but do not make use of echolocation to navigate during a flight in low-light conditions.
Owls are recognized for their unevenly considerable eyes compared to their heads. A possible effect of the evolution of a giant eye in a relatively small skull is that the eye of the owl has become tubular.
Owls are considered to possess the most frontally positioned eyes among all avian groups, which provides them with some of the broadest binocular fields of conception.
However, owls are long-sighted and cannot concentrate on objects within a few centimeters of their eyes.
Owls show specialized hearing advantages and ear shapes that also help in hunting. They are distinguished for their unbalanced ear positions on the skull. Owls can possess either external or internal ears, both of which are uneven.
Unsymmetrical ear arrangement on the skull permits the owl to point out the whereabouts of its target. It is particularly true for nocturnal owls like Tengmalm’s owl and the Barn owls.
With the ears fix at different areas on its skull, an owl can discern the direction from which the sound is coming.
Though the optical and hearing abilities of the owl permit it to find and chase its target, the beak and claws of the owl do the final task.
The owl slaughters its prey using these claws to smash the skull and stroke the body. The crushing strength of an owl’s talons depends on the prey type, size, and the size of the owl.
The beak of an owl is curved, short, and naturally latched at the tip for clamping and ripping its prey. When the prey is caught, the scissor movement of the top and the lower beak is utilized in breaking the tissue of its kill.
The coloration of the owl’s feather plays a crucial role in its capacity to stay still and blend into the habitat, making it unnoticed to prey. Owls tend to imitate the coloration and occasionally the composition patterns of their environment. Nonetheless, the barn owl is an exception.
Mode of living
Few owls are nocturnal, actively searching for their prey in the dark. Various species of owls, however, are nighttime—active during the night hours, and an example is the pygmy owl (Glaucidium). Some owls are also active in the day, and examples of such owls include the short-eared owl and the burrowing owl.
Most of the owls’ hunting technique relies on stealth and surprise. Owls possess at least two adaptations that help them in attaining stealth. First, the pale coloration of their feathers can make them almost unnoticed under specific situations.
Secondly, rough edges on the prominent side of owls’ feathers soften an owl’s wing beats, enabling its flying to be almost silent. Few fish-eating owls, for which silence possesses no evolutionary benefit, lack this modification.
Reproduction in owls
Owl eggs are naturally white and nearly round shape. They range in quantity from a few to a dozen, based on the category of the owl and the specific season. Most owls usually have about three or four numbers of eggs.
In some species, female owls do not breed with the exact male for a lifetime. Female digging owls typically travel and locate other mates, while the male remains in its territory and mates with other females.
Do owls attack humans?
Although owls and humans often exist concurrently in peace, there have been events when owls have attacked humans. For instance, in January 2013, a man who lived in Inverness, Scotland, endured heavy bleeding.
He went into a panic attack after being assaulted by an owl that was probably a 20 inches eagle owl. There is no doubt that owls are majestic creatures with big personalities.
Many people like to assume owls represent bad omens, but it is all personal perception. One thing is certain; owls are nature’s gift to man, both in the air and on land.