Owls. "Solemn Solomon of the Shade"

Owls are mysterious and lovely...budgies are obvious and noisy!

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eagle Owl, world's largest owlBarn OwlGirl with pet Eagle OwlA cute Little OwlHuman Owl, but with less sense than most of the speciesWoody (right).  The other bird is not Sparky, but he is green also
eagle Owl, world's largest owl
eagle Owl, world's largest owl | Source
Barn Owl
Barn Owl | Source
Girl with pet Eagle Owl
Girl with pet Eagle Owl
A cute Little Owl
A cute Little Owl | Source
Human Owl, but with less sense than most of the species
Human Owl, but with less sense than most of the species | Source
Woody (right).  The other bird is not Sparky, but he is green also
Woody (right). The other bird is not Sparky, but he is green also | Source

Humans have had a love/hate affair with Owls for millenia

Owls…”Solemn Solomon of the Shade.”

It constantly amazes this reporter to be reminded just how long many of the creatures who share our world have actually been here, compared to our own insignificant tenure.

One of the favorites are the owls, perhaps because so little is seen of them as they live their lives during our long nights when most humans sleep.

It was astonishing to find that owls have been around for 60 million years - and birds in general for about 140 million.

The first owls, blinking sleepily in the dawn light as their shifts ended, gazed down at a far different world of critters than we see today.

They were little different from those of modern times, not the case with many mammals, the owls might have gaped at rhinoceros-like herbivores 20 feet long and weighing several tons.

Elephants and felines were a long time in the future and the apes that would evolve into homo sapiens were not even a twinkle in the eye of their lemur-like forefathers.

The familiar horse which has played such a huge part in our own history, including - sadly - a large place in our supermarket meat shelves of late, were the size of terriers and had four toes on each foot.

Forests were plentiful and plants like conifers and palms were dominant, but flowers were few: magnolias had arrived but the orchid was still way in the future.

Birds were competing vigorously back then during the Eocene Period with the mammals as the last of the dinosaurs faded away, along with many of the reptiles.

To do this, birds produces “monsters’ which would have our own Ostriches and Emus calling “Foul!”

Like the Diatrymas, standing at least 6 feet high; voracious meat eaters, far too heavy to fly. Others were even larger, like the 10 foot high elephant bird, weighing nearly half a tone and probably the largest bird ever. (Relatives survived until recent times in Madagascar, falling into extinction due to hunting)

The birds of prey probably competed just as energetically forcing the perhaps weaker owls to find their niche as nocturnal predators: evolution always spreads its creatures around to cover every opportunity as both plant and flesh eaters.

The owl is the supreme hunting and killing machine of small rodents. Its soundless, swift flight, keen eyesight in bad light and evolved hearing that allows the creatures to hear small rodents while still in their burrows, ensures that few owls face sunup with empty tummies. It’s clear that owls and hawks, etc., have evolved into all the types as rodents have done the same, world-wide, over all the millions of intervening years.

Owls have always done well in the United States. The first fossil of an owl - petrified and sixty million years old… was found there in Wyoming. Although all the scientists had were petrified bones, they could see this ancient bird would have had a similar configuration with all modern owls: face plates, and large, frontal eye sockets as well as prominent ear structure. The toes of owls are in a two in front, two behind. In some species, a rear claw can swivel to join the front set to add power when gripping or strangling prey.

Owls vary as much in size as do the prey they subsist upon. This ranges from the Pygmy Owls of around 5 inches in height and weighing a few of ounces, to the giant and quite fearsome Eagle Owls, up to 30 inches high; the huge Snowy Owl, a gorgeous creature in its white plumage as befits its northern locations. In between are many types, such as the Hawk Owls, the handsome “Spectacled Owl,” the European favorites, the quite recently evolved Barn Owls.

In all, there over 200 recognized and studied species, many of which boast some of the most imaginative and evocative names allotted to the creatures of our planet.

We have Barking Owls, Laughing Owls, Fearful Owls, Bare-Legged Owls, Barred Owls (banned from pubs), the Least Pigmy Owl, Bare-Flanked Screech Owl, (screeched cause he’s cold, maybe),. Many owls bear the name of the discoverer, and still more carry the names of their locations. Common is a name that describes the color configuration of the bird: like the Sooty Owl who makes a nest in chimneys, (not really, just seeing who is paying attention).

Actually, owls, on the whole, are not great nest builders: some nest on the ground and others prefer natural cradles in trees. Among their enemies, owls count other owls, the smaller varieties often preyed upon by the large species, such as the eagle owls, etc. Owls rest during the day in their lair or in the high branches of trees where their excellent camouflage allows them to rest undetected. As predators, they also count snakes, tree climbing mammals, such as the Weasel family, as well as the smaller members of the cat species who might creep up on they as they doze…and, of course, idiot man, although they are usually revered and protected in Britain.

Owls either swallow their prey whole, or in large chunks where some digestion time is required until the pieces of bone, fur and feathers, etc., that defeats their digestive juices can be spat out in pellets. Scientists often examine such pellets to ascertain the particular owl’s diet.

Basically asocial in nature, owls do often congregate at night, perhaps for reasons of safety, warmth, or a bit of nooky - we are not quite sure.

The bird has generally been considered “wise” in folk lore, like the “Wise old owl, the more he saw, the less he spoke.” Really, they do quite a lot of screeching and hooting at night, but would almost certainly keep very quite and still when spotted during the day; perhaps when the poet saw him.

Owls have also been seen as portents of evil - rather like HP editors.

Isaiah, one of the deluded writing in the bible, gave the owl a drubbing, along with the Bitterns, Cormorants and more. A certain baker’s daughter, reducing the size of a loaf being baked for Christ, was turned into an owl!

The Spanish are convinced the owl was once a song-bird until its presence at the crucifixion of Christ robbed it of its vocal range, so it can now only say “Cruz, cruz, cruz,” (Cross, cross cross). As the owl arrived 60 million years before Jesus, and was probably close by, hooting at the birth, this belief espouses unimaginable conceit.

Many societies have more of this laughable nonsense in their folk-lore…the owls might justifiably say “To-whit…idiots!”

“All the forest dwellers take flight

At the silent ruler of the night...

Golden-eyed warrior of the glade

Solemn Solomon of the shade…”

Excerpt from “Scourge of the Night,”

From Charged Particles,

By Robert Challen.

Note. Sadly, I dedicate this article to Woody, my female budgie, who passed on last night, peacefully. Now I will have to find another mate for her “toyboy,” Sparky. (see pic). Another mate for yours’ truly is proving more difficult!…All offers considered!

Source credit.

The author thanks the publication “OWLS.” by Soper, etc., (David and Charles, publishers) for some of the information in this article.

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Comments 21 comments

Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia

Great read, Bob! Owls hold a special place in my heart as they seem to be mostly lone hunters of the night. I've often called them near with a screech or a hoot as they are sometimes curious or either anxious to chat with their fellows.

I once encountered one face-to-face in my hunting stand when one lit right on the limb next to me. I don't know which was more startled, the owl or I! lol!

Rated up, of course! :)

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Randy: Cheers for visit and kind remarks. I have little interest in Hubpages now and only publish infrequently and don't put as much into the hubs as i once did.

I am fond of owls, too, and go out of my way to see them when possible.

Take care


moonfroth profile image

moonfroth 3 years ago from Rural BC (Canada) & N of Puerto Vallarta (Mexico)

Woonderful blend of solid research and good writing (as usual). My owl tale--- When I was 15, I was hunting with my Dad in northern BC. We were walking back to the car on an old logging road--we were late, it was very dark, couldn't see more than a few feet. Suddenly, my Dad--highly educated, eloquent of speech--cried out, "Shit!" Well, I was quite perceptive, so I figured this was an expletive rather than a command, so I clucked about trying to figure out what was the matter. He said nothing further, we got to the car a minute later, and when Dad sat down in the lighted interior--I just about had a seizure! His entire head and face was a sheet of still-flowing blood pumping from multiple heavy slashes raking from back to front of his scalp, a portion of which was flapping like a sheet on a bed. The area abounded in large owl species, and one of them had obviously mistaken his hunting cap for prey. Took over 40 stitches to put Dad's head back together. He had heavy scars for the rest of his life.. His summation of the incident?--"hope the f_____ owl found my cap tasty!"

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Excellent, Bob!

When I lived in the desert west of Tucson, I used to see those tiny little desert owls feeding on insects in my headlights at night. They were small enough to hold in your hand.

tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 3 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

Up and awesome. Owls are without a doubt intriguing animals! I've worked with Barn owls, Great Horned, Screech and Saw Whet owls. The easiest way to observe them in the wild is to play a recording of their "song" at dusk or dawn. It is amazing how brave they become (in mating season especially) to investigate the sound. I've had screech owls come from a mile away and actually land on my arm or meetup with a female 15 feet away in a tree as I watched them mate. It can be a very rewarding past time for a bird watcher because their "song" also attracts all kinds of other birds looking to chase the owl away (while scaring others away no doubt). Play a Great Horned Owl's hoot and the Screech Owls will disappear (mortal enemies).

I have to mention one thing though - millions of years old? Not a fact, only a theory and a flawed one at that. The main way archeologists and scientists know how old the things they dig up are is by radiometric dating. This method has been accepted as an accurate way to determine the age of an artifact, and until recently few have questioned the accuracy of this method. The problem is, if radiometric dating is accepted as an accurate way to date artifacts, when in fact it is not, then it is misleading people to believe artifacts are older than they really are. It's been proven radiometric dating is not an accurate way to determine how old fossils are, because it is based on non-provable assumptions.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Whew, Clark...just shows the power in those talons. I hit one in a car in Georgia doing about 80 at night (of course). I was lucky in a way. It hit so high the windscreen didnt break, but the poor creature skidded over the top of the car and gouged deep scratches in the metal!

Dad was a phlegmatic character wasnt he? All he said was shit!?

Take care


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Will. Thanks for visit, many of the tiny species live on old gopher of rabbit burrows I read.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

tsadjatko: Thanks for visit and interesting observation on dating. Trouble with HP articles are they are so limiting and my heart is not in it like it once was.


PS Wiki indicates that they are at least this old?

"The Paleocene genera Berruornis and Ogygoptynx show that owls were already present as a distinct lineage some 60–57 mya (million years ago), and, hence, possibly also some 5 million years earlier, at the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs. This makes them one of the oldest known groups of non-Galloanserae landbirds. The supposed "Cretaceous owls" Bradycneme and Heptasteornis are apparently non-avialan maniraptors.[24]"

credit wiki commons

tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 3 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

Diogenes - I know these ages are common in print but not a provable fact. You might find this interesting :-) http://www.missiontoamerica.org/genesis/radiometri...

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Cheers tsadjatko, Ill check it out tomorrow.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Cheers tsadjatko, Ill check it out tomorrow.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

“Owls have also been seen as portents of evil - rather like HP editors.” :-)

Exceptional hub, Bob…very well written. You have given us an interesting meld of facts, fiction, and myth about the celebrated and mysterious Owl. I’ve only seen one up close and personal once, and that was when I was a little girl. It somehow lost his or her way in the early morning and flew into our country house through an open door. My folks had quite a time in ushering the poor thing safely back outside.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

An owl knows when it is in good company, Genna.

Thanks for dropping in

Bob x

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

tsadjatko. Are you a creationist?


stars439 profile image

stars439 3 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Great read. Enjoyed the knowledge of this fascinating bird. I like the way they turn their heads. They are so big when they fly. We cherish you. Love Becky, Joann, and Leon.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Stars: Thanks for warm comments. Hope Becky is doing as well as you could hope for


moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

We think we have an owl on our roof. We can hear him walking around and in the dead of night I heard something let out an awful scream. Thanking the owl may have got hold of some little animal. We have seen an owl hanging around.

So sorry about your parakeet, Woody

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks for kind remarks. Sparky now has a new "wife," "Sweety!" Both happy.

I told them about your owl and they said they don't want one round here!

I am surprised you can hear an owl walking around as they don't walk very well and I would think they would be quiet.


srsddn profile image

srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

Of late owls are attracting me. Every reading adds to my knowledge. Yours has done much more. I liked the photographs, specially the Human Owl, sounding quite sensible. Thanks for sharing. Thumbed up and shared.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

I love owls. They keep the rodent population down. Of course if one isn't careful they may get the kitten too. Most birds don't give them any flack either. Very informative article!

Hope you're well. Haven't seen you around in a while. xx

Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

You are always so thorough when you write about the different animals and creatures and I like that. I've been here before, but this time I've pinned this hub to my Pinterest board on Birds. Going to share this hub with my followers again too, because I think of you as a dear friend.

I'm so sorry it takes me so long to get back on comments. Time is so tight all the time. But I think I'm doing better. Now comments usually don't get much more than 3-4 days old. For a while some were more than 2 weeks old before I could get to them! I try to answer them in the order received. Anyway, do hope you are well and all bushy tailed, etc. xx

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