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All About Owls

Updated on February 24, 2018
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Ben has held a life-long interest in language and has a special interest in the expressions, phrases and idioms that contribute to its use.

All About Owls

This article includes all my favourite owls along with an explanation on each of their habitats and food sources.

Owls, of which there are about 200 species, are mostly nocturnal and solitary birds of prey. Almost without exception, they are typified by their upright stance, broad head and binocular vision and excellent hearing. They are so well adapted to hunting their prey, that even their feathers are adapted for silent flight. These amazing birds are found in all regions of the Earth except Antarctica and some remote islands.

Owls are divided into two families: the true owls, Strigidae (to which most owls belong); and the barn-owls, Tytonidae. Owls belonging to the Strigidae family are also often referred to as "typical" owls.

I hope that you will find this article fun, informative and educational.

Barn Owl

FOUND: almost everywhere apart from polar and desert regions of the world.

HABITAT: farmland and grassland

DIET: bats, birds, lizards, insects

NEST SITE: hole in a tree

EGGS: 2 to 9

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

Brown Fish Owl

Scientific name: Bubo zeylonensis

FOUND: India, Burma and Thailand

HABITAT: Riverine woods

DIET: mainly fish, crabs, frogs and birds.

NEST SITE: hole in a tree

EGGS: 1 to 2

This owl is a "Typical Owl" belonging to the Strigidae family. It is a large owl with tufted ears.

Brown Fish Owl
Brown Fish Owl | Source

Owl Vision

Owls are well known for their large eyes that often seem disproportionate to they size of their heads. While they do have some sideways movements of their eyes, this is quite restricted and owls have adapted to overcome this by being able to swivel their head in order to visualise their surroundings. In fact, the owl can swivel its head through about 270 degrees, meaning that its body can remain still while it's head can rotate to enable it to see behind it.

Owls are actually far-sighted and are unable to focus on objects just a few centimetres in front of them.

Eyes of an Eagle Owl

Eagle Owl Eyes
Eagle Owl Eyes

Brown Wood Owl

Scientific name: Strix leptogrammica

FOUND: India, South China, South East Asia.

HABITAT: highland and lowland forest

DIET: small mammals, birds and reptiles

NEST SITE: on the ground or in a tree hole.

EGGS: 2

A typical owl. It is medium sized and it is an ear-less owl. This owl is shy and nocturnal, preferring to roost during the day.

Brown Wood Owl
Brown Wood Owl | Source

Owl Flight and Feathers

When we think of birds of prey, we often think of fast moving, swift striking birds dive bombing their prey... however, most owls don't hunt in this way. Instead they have adapted to hunt by stealth. They rely on the darkness to hide their movements and have traded speed for stealth.

The exact mechanism within Owl's feathers that make silent flight possible has been well studied, but the exact reasons why these enable such quiet flying is still uncertain. It is known that owl feathers are generally larger than the average bird's feathers. Serrated edges along the owl's remiges (flight feathers on the wings) bring the flapping of the wing down to a nearly silent mechanism. Research has shown that these serrations are more likely reducing aerodynamic disturbances, rather than simply reducing noise. Additionally, the surface of the flight feathers is with a velvety structure that absorbs the sound of the wing moving.

Buffy Fish Owl

Scientific name: Bubo ketupu

FOUND: East Asia and Malaysia

HABITAT: Mangroves, rice paddies and tropical forests.

DIET: fish, reptiles, bats and large insects.

NEST SITE: trees

EGGS: 1

This owl doesn't have the feather specialization of most other owls and so its feathers are not silent in flight.

A Buffy Fish Owl

Buffy Fish Owl
Buffy Fish Owl | Source

Video: All About Owls for Kids

Burrowing Owl

Scientific name: Athene cunicularia

FOUND: Canada to Argentinia

HABITAT: prairie and semi-desert

DIET: small rodents, insects, especially grasshoppers, birds.

NEST SITE: often nest in colonies in burrows in the ground.

EGGS: 4 to 5

Burrowing Owls
Burrowing Owls

Owl Hearing

Owl ears are set on slightly different places on their head, this allows them to better determine the location of a sound. They do this by measuring the minute difference in the time a sound takes to reach each ear.

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Chaco Owl

Scientific name: Strix Chacoensis

FOUND: Argentina and Paraguay.

HABITAT: semi-open, dry landscape.

DIET: small mammals, birds and insects.

NEST SITE: hole in a tree

EGGS: 2 to 3

Chaco Owl

Chaco Owl
Chaco Owl

Ethiopian Eagle Owl

Scientific name: Buba capensis dillonii

FOUND: Ethiopia

HABITAT: mountains over three thousand metres.

DIET: mammals, birds, reptiles and insects.

NEST SITE: on the ground at the base of low cliffs.

EGGS: 1 to 3

Owl Talons and Beaks

Talons and beak are the tools the owl uses to dispatch its prey. They kill their prey by using these talons to crush the skull and knead the body. Owl beaks are short, curved and downward-facing. Typically, they are hooked at the tip for gripping and tearing its prey.

European Pygmy Owl

Scientific name: Glaucidium passerinum

FOUND: Northern and Central Europe, Northern Asia.

HABITAT: Coniferous or mixed forest.

DIET: Small mammals, reptiles and insects, birds.

NEST SITE: Tree holes.

EGGS: 3 to 10

As the name suggests, this owl is the smallest to be found in Europe. It is believed to prey on birds sometimes they as big as this little bird itself.


European Pygmy Owl
European Pygmy Owl

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Scientific name: Glaucidium brasailianum

FOUND: Central and South America.

HABITAT: Desert, forest, savannah, woods and plantations.

DIET: Small birds, large insects and lizards.

NEST SITE: Hole in a tree

EGGS: 3 to 5

This owl often hunts by day. It is classified as a "Typical" owl.

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Little Owl

Scientific name: Athene noctua vidalii

FOUND: Britain and Western Europe

HABITAT: woodland, parks, semi-desert.

DIET: small mammals, insects, moths, worms and birds.

NEST SITE: holes in trees or walls or on the ground.

EGGS: 3 to 5

Introduced into Britain during the Victorian era, it was first thought of as a pest, before becoming something of a national favourite. Today, it's existence is threatened by new farming practices and it is rapidly becoming a rarer sight in the English countryside.

Little Owl
Little Owl

Long-eared Owl

Scientific name: Asio otus otus

FOUND: Europe, Asia and North West Africa.

HABITAT: isolated thickets, woodland and marsh.

DIET: small mammals, insects and birds

NEST SITE: old nest in tree.

EGGS: 4 to 6

Long-eared owl
Long-eared owl

Magellan Horned Owl

Scientific name: Bubo magellanicus

FOUND: South Amnerica, Bolivia, Chile Argentina

HABITAT: woodland, forest, mountainous regions and desert.

DIET: mammals, birds, reptiles, spiders and large insects.

NEST SITE: abandoned nests, crevices between rocks.

EGGS: 2 to 3

Magellan Horned Owl
Magellan Horned Owl

Mottled Owl

Scientific name: Ciccabo virgata

FOUND: Mexico to North-eastern Argentina.

HABITAT: preferes humid lowland forest.

DIET: small rodents, small birds, reptiles and amphibians.

NEST SITE: hole in a tree or abandoned nest.

EGGS: 2

Mottled Owl
Mottled Owl

Oriental Bay Owl

Scientific name: Phodilus adius badius

FOUND: Malaysia, South East Asia, North Induia, Central Burma..

HABITAT: Forests.

DIET: Small mammals and birds, lizards and insects.

NEST SITE: Hole in a tree

EGGS: 3 to 5

This owl is classified with Barn Owls and in completely nocturnal.

Oriental Bay Owl
Oriental Bay Owl

Short-eared Owl

Scientific name: Asio flammeus

FOUND: Europe, North Asia and North America.

HABITAT: open moors, plantations, grassland and marshes.

DIET: small mammals and birds.

NEST SITE: on the ground.

EGGS: 4 to 9

This owl is classified as being a "Typical" owl. It is medium sized.

Short Eared Owl

Short Eared Owl
Short Eared Owl

South American Horned Owl

Scientific name: Bubo virginianus nacurutu

FOUND: South America and East of the Andes.

HABITAT: semi-open landscapes.

DIET: small mammals and birds, reptiles, frogs, large insects

NEST SITE: hollow between logs or rocks.

EGGS: 2 to 4

These Horned Owls are sometimes known as "Hoot Owls" or "Cat Owls".

South Americam Great Horned Owl
South Americam Great Horned Owl

Southern Boobook Owl

Scientific name: Ninox boabook

FOUND: Australia

HABITAT: thick forest, open rocky areas, scrub and prairie.

DIET: mainly insects, occasionally small birds or mammals.

NEST SITE: in a hole

EGGS: 3

Southern Boobook Owl
Southern Boobook Owl

Spectacled Owl

Scientific name: Pulsatrix perspicillata

FOUND: Mexico, Central and South America.

HABITAT: Tropical rainforest and woodland.

DIET: small mammals, caterpillars and crabs.

NEST SITE: in a hole

EGGS: 2

Spectacled Owl
Spectacled Owl

Striped Owl

Scientific name: Asio clamator

FOUND: Southern Mexico, Uruguay and North Argentina.

HABITAT: semi-open grassland with scattered trees or bushes.

DIET: small mammals, birds, insects and reptiles.

NEST SITE: on the ground in long grass and dense bushes.

EGGS: 2 to 4

A medium sized owl.

Striped Owl
Striped Owl

Sunda Scops Owl

Scientific name: Otus lempiji

FOUND: South East Asia mainland and neighbouing islands. Suatra, Borneo, Java and Bali.

HABITAT: Forest, plantations, wooded gardens.

DIET: Insects, including crickets, grasshoppers, beetles and moths.

NEST SITE: Hole in a tree

EGGS: 2 to 3

Sunda Scops Owl
Sunda Scops Owl

Tengmalm's Owl

Scientific name: Aegolius funereus funereus

FOUND: Central and Northern Europe, Asia and Western Siberia.

HABITAT: Boreal forest.

DIET: Voles, shrews and small mammals.

NEST SITE: hole in a tree

EGGS: 3 to 5

Tengmalm's Owl
Tengmalm's Owl

Tropical Screech Owl

Scientific name: Megascops choliba

FOUND: Central and South America.

HABITAT: Savannah, woodland, lightly wooded residential areas.

DIET: Insects and spiders

NEST SITE: Hole in a tree

EGGS: 1 to 3

Tropical Screech Owl
Tropical Screech Owl

Turkmenian Eagle Owl

Scientific name: Bubo bubo turcomanus

FOUND: Britain and Western Europe

HABITAT: rocky areas.

DIET: small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians.

NEST SITE: among rocks

EGGS: 1 to 4

Turkmenian Eagle Owl
Turkmenian Eagle Owl

Ural Owl

Scientific name: Strix uralensis liturata

FOUND: Central Russia and Nortrhern Scandinavia

HABITAT: Old woodland and forest.

DIET: mammals, birds, frogs, squirrels and insects.

NEST SITE: broken stumps, in holes.

EGGS: 2 to 6

Ural Owl
Ural Owl

White-breasted Barn Owl

Scientific name: Tyto alba alba

FOUND: Britain and Western Europe

HABITAT: open rough grasslands.

DIET: small mammals - mainly voles.

NEST SITE: holes in trees, old buildings and crevices in rocks.

EGGS: 4 to 5

White Breasted Barn Owl
White Breasted Barn Owl

Verreaux's Eagle Owl

Scientific name: Bubo lacteus

FOUND:

HABITAT: woodland, riversides, acacia forest.

DIET: mammals, up to the size of a monkey.

NEST SITE: old nest or sometimes a hole in a tree.

EGGS: 1 to 2.

Verreaux's Eagle Owl
Verreaux's Eagle Owl

Western Screech Owl

Scientific name: Megascops kennicotti

FOUND: Western North America, Mexico.

HABITAT: Forests and scrub.

DIET: Insects, spiders, large centipedes and scorpions.

NEST SITE: Hole in a tree

EGGS: 2 to 7

Western Screech Owl
Western Screech Owl

Comments

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    • georgepmoola2 profile image

      georgepmoola2 

      4 years ago

      Excellent, informative lens!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      4 years ago from Redcar

      @Merrci: Thank you.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Wow, that was amazing to see. I had no idea there were so many different ones. You get used to what is in your area. Very interesting to learn about them, at any age. Thanks for putting this together.

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