Everything about Owls: A Feathered Fascination

Brown White and Black Owl // Healthier Pets Today

There are some startling facts about owls that you might not know. To begin with, you should be aware that they are cunning hunters built for stealth. Secondly, you most likely are unaware that we live in the same neighborhoods as them. 

Their presence in our communities is a blessing because of their large appetites, which help keep insect populations under control. Some homeowners even build owl houses to get them to come to their yards! We would thus like to honor the silent – and occasionally eerie – prey that silently hoots outside our windows and looks down on our streets at night in search of its next meal during this Halloween season.

Hoo are You?

Tanning Photography of Flying Eagle-owl // Healthier Pets Today

Owls are nocturnal predators in the Strigiformes order, a group of giant birds characterized by a broad head, an erect stance, and keen talons. The four most widespread owl species are the screech owl, barn owl, barred owl, and horned owl.

Limitations in Neck Range of Motion: Debunking Common Perceptions

According to a myth, an owl can spin their heads 360 degrees. However, they can also turn their heads 270 degrees, which is only a quarter of a turn short of a complete revolution, so that could be more accurate. This implies that an owl can see to its left and vice versa by moving its head to the right.

If you attempted to turn your head that far, you would rip tendons and burst arteries and blood vessels in your neck. However, an owl’s unique anatomical characteristics let it tilt its head. First, according to National Geographic, humans have two socket pivots connecting our heads and bodies, but owls only have one, which restricts our range of motion. Additionally, an owl has a large number of vertebrae, which increases their range of motion.

Furthermore, the owl’s circulatory system is built to support this ability. The birds’ backup artery network provides nutrition if their head-twisting clamps down on blood vessels. 

They must be able to turn their heads so far to the side. An owl must turn their heads to see anything that is not immediately in front of them since they cannot rotate their eyes in their sockets.

They Can’t Smell

Close Up Photo of a Eurasian Eagle Owl // Healthier Pets Today

Although skilled hunters, owls do not locate unwary victims using their sense of smell. The Owl Trust claims they have very little sense of smell. Instead, they find their prey by using their acute sense of hearing.

Due to their unpleasant excrement, an owl can hunt species that most other animals avoid, such as skunks, because they lack the sense of smell. Being olfactory-blind is not an uncommon trait in predatory birds. Many, like hawks and eagles, are olfactory deficient, according to the Owl Trust. Among raptors, the turkey vulture is unique in that it possesses a keen sense of smell, which it utilizes to identify animal carcasses. 

Owls Are Virtually Silent In Flight

Because they flap their wings, most birds create turbulence in the air, which causes noise. Larger birds naturally produce more turbulence and sound because of their larger wings. Not owls, though. They fly with near silence.

So, what is their method? It has to do with their feathers and the size of their wings. An owl may fly slowly because their wings are enormous compared to their body mass. The National Audubon Society states that instead of flapping their wings, they can glide quite a bit when in flight. 

They can also fly silently because of their feathers. By flapping their wings, they create turbulent air broken up by the comb-like structures formed by the feathers on the leading edge of their wings. Typically, turbulence produces the swooshing sound we identify with flying birds, but these comb-like structures reduce the sound in owls. An owl’s velvety feathers on the trailing edge of their wings also help lessen the flying noise.

They’re A Farmer’s Best Friend

White and Black Owl Staring // Healthier Pets Today

What do owls eat? Owls consume a wide range of creatures. While giant owls hunt mammals and occasionally reptiles, amphibians, and even other birds, including owls. A smaller owl mostly eats insects and small mammals. Many owls are fond of rodents like mice, rats, and voles.

Owls may ease a farmer’s life by managing insect populations that harm and jeopardize their crops as they feed on rodents. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, barn owls are especially beneficial to farmers due to their propensity to live in barns and other old, abandoned structures and hunt rodents. 

The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources states that a family of five barn owls, consisting of two parents and three kids, can eat up to 1,000 rodents during each nesting season. According to the Sierra Club, farmers frequently erect barn owl nesting boxes to draw in nesting couples that will regulate the rodent populations in their fields. 

Naturally, it takes more than barn owls to control the rodent population. Rabbits are a staple of almost all the owls’ diets in Will County.  

They Can Be Very Big Or Very Small

The National Audubon Society states that the elf owl, the smallest owl in the world, is just 5 or 6 inches tall and weighs less than 1.5 ounces or less than one-tenth of a pound. Just how little is that? As per Reference.com, the weight of a stack of nine nickels is approximately equivalent to that of an elf owl.

Although they are not as small as elf owls, we have some tiny ones here in Will County. These are primarily found in Mexico. The Cornell Lab states that the northern saw-whet owl, the smallest owl in Will County, is between 7 and 8 inches tall and weighs less than half a pound.

The most excellent gray owl is North America’s tallest, dwarfing the elf and even the northern saw-whet owl. These owls can grow to a height of 32 inches and a wingspan of up to 5 feet, but they weigh less than the great horned and snowy owls, which are more recognizable to people living in Will County. According to the Cornell Lab, a great horned owl can weigh up to 5.5 pounds, while a snowy owl can reach a maximum of 6.5 pounds.

Honoring the Hunters

owls, Brown and Black Owl Staring // Healthier Pets Today

To sum up, owls are unique animals with unexpected characteristics. These birds are essential to ecosystems because of their varied sizes, silent flight, and cunning hunting strategies. An owl can spin their heads almost 270 degrees, not 360, as is commonly believed. Their extraordinary talents are attributed to their distinct anatomy, preference for hearing over scent, and feather structure. Additionally, by controlling rodent populations, owls – particularly barn owls – are a great ally to farmers. Let’s honor these silent night hunters’ fascinating and helpful presence in our neighborhoods this Halloween season.