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Interesting facts about Owls
Birds with varying depictions among cultures
Owls are birds watched with great interest by humans. Different cultures, however, have depicted their presence in different ways. The depictions have changed a lot over time but still some folklore are associated with these interesting birds.
There are about 200 species of this bird of prey and some peculiar characteristics make them different from others.
This Hub will present some salient features of owls.
Where are Owls found - The Range
Owls are present in all continents of the earth. The only exceptions are Antarctica, Greenland (most of it) and some of the remote islands.
Apart from living form, owls have found place on bed sheets, pillow covers, stuffed toys, greeting cards, clothes and in various other activities of humans. This is happening in spite of many superstitions linked with owls.
#1. Unique capability - Flight without noise
Structure of Feather
Feather - Close up
Owls are known to fly without making noise. As a result the prey does not get clues about the impending danger and owls normally do not fail in catching the targeted prey. How does it happen? It is made possible by the special type of feathers the owls are bestowed upon. Normally, the sound is created when an objects passes through air at a speed causing pressure waives. There are comb shaped appendages seen on the edges of feather of the owls which consist of stiff edges and soft edges on either sides. These help in reducing the sound level by breaking up the air flow into small sections as well as in decreasing the air turbulence. Further, the ability to move slowly in comparison with other birds makes it almost a silent flight. The following picture can help in understanding this unique structure of feather of owls.
#2. Unique body structure - 270 degrees turning of Head
There is a difference between head and eye movements of humans and owls.
Unlike humans the owls have very limited capability of moving their eyes within the socket which forces them to turn their entire heads for seeing in different directions.
Extreme and sudden movements of neck can create serious problems for humans as these can result into stretching and even tearing of linings of blood vessels whereas owls can afford to do it easily because their vascular system is highly developed and they have have unique bone structure, adding flexibility to their movements. Interestingly, the necks of owls look short because of the long and thick feathers around necks but these necks are longer than what they look.
These differences gives the owl an edge over humans for head movements and they can rotate their heads up to 270 degrees. Since this capability can facilitate them to track their prey without making any body movements, owls are not at risk of being spotted and, therefore, can pounce upon their potential pray without making their presence felt.
The video will demonstrate how they can track the target without movement of body.
Watch head movements of Owl and structure which facilitates this
#3. Owls as Predators and their Regurgitating Capabilites
Owls are also known for their hunting skills. In the absence any mechanism to chew their pray, they swallow their small-sized preys. In the event of their prey being large in size they use their sharp beak and powerful talons to kill and tear them apart before swallowing.
Since all the material may not be digestible they regurgitate the parts like bones, teeth, fur and feathers in the form of pellets.
They are carnivorous and mice, squirrels and other small mammals form a part of their prey. They are mainly nocturnal and, therefore, hunt their prey during darkness.
#4. Owls' ability to Camouflage and their Defense Mechanisms
In order to make themselves invisible to their potential prey, the owls have the capability to keep sitting without body movements and use their plumage to blend into the surroundings. The colour or even the texture of the environment used for preying can be mimicked by owls.
Watch the concealing posture of the Bubo bubo owl while positioning itself in the old trunk tree.
They also have the capability of squeezing their bodies to look thin or flaring their bodies to look larger than what they actually are.
#5. Structure and Strength of the Talons of Owls
#6. Folklores about Owls
Owls have been subjects of folklores among different cultures. The superstitions range varies from linking owls with symbol of wisdom to bad luck and omens.
Some countries attach different meaning to the type of owl. Those with ears are considered as symbols of wisdom and the ones without ears the other way round in countries like France and Netherlands.
In early years in Rome, the hoot of the owl was linked with impending death.
Nailing of a dead owl to the door of a house happened to be an effort to avert evil in some cultures earlier.
In Kenya the Kikuyu associate the owl with bad luck and the hoot and sight of owl is linked with death even today.
Unlike old views, the owl is associated with wisdom in Western countries and it is a sign of good luck to see an owl in northern England.
Owls have found a unique place of provincial symbols in states like Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec in Canada.
Thus, the owls are viewed with different and contradictory beliefs in different parts of the world. Surprisingly, these folklores still prevail and these might have passed on one generation to the next by word of mouth.
Owls and some other birds have zygotactyl feet. This unique arrangement of toes provides these birds first and the fourth digit facing backwards and the second and the third forwards. It enhances the capturing capability of the owls and the owls are able to crush their prey due to this power of its talons. Some varieties of owls have very long talons in proportion to their bodies and also some can rotate one from the back to front to have better control over the prey. There claws are curved and sharp. All these features in their feet make them great hunters.