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Owl Facts

Some cool owl facts. All 220+ species of owls can be divided into just two families: barn owls and typical owls. Found all over the world except in Antarctica, Greenland and a few remote islands, these birds are mostly nocturnal which is why we rarely see them.

Owl Facts: A picture of a common barn owl with a white round face.

A common barn owl.


The smallest one, an elf owl weighing just over one ounce, is found in the Southwest US and Mexico. The largest is the great grey owl found in North America, northern Russia, and Europe with a wingspan up to 5 feet.


These birds have some very strange features. While their eyes are fixed, they can turn their heads up to 270 degrees.  Their foot is called a zygodactyl since 2 toes face forward and 2  face backward to snatch their prey better. And with no teeth, they swallow their food whole (consisting of rodents, small birds, and insects) and then throw up the bones and fur (nice!).

Owl Facts: A picture of a great grey owl in flight

A great grey owl in flight.

Our Experience with Owls

We love seeing owls on our travels but one sighting of a family of three was very special. By the way, a group of owls is called a parliament, coined by C. S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia.

owl facts

“Riding the White Wind” by Dale Weiler. In the permanent collection of Brookgreen Gardens.

While on our honeymoon in Costa Rica, our guide stopped to show us a mother, father and baby screech owl high in the trees above the road. One week later, as we were leaving, we stopped to see if they were in the same place. Sure enough, the entire family was still there to bid us farewell.

Dale has carved a number of owl sculptures as they are one of his favorite birds. “Riding the White Wind” is in the permanent collection of Brookgreen Gardens.

Owl Facts: A picture of screech owl, a family with a dad, mom and baby in Costa Rica

The screech owl family we saw on our honeymoon in Costa Rica.

What Can We Do to Help Owls?

Important to our environment, owls naturally control rodent and insect populations without the use of dangerous pesticides that denigrate the environment. They are also an excellent indicator of the overall health of the ecosystem in which they live.

Learn More

American Bird Conservancy, based in The Plains, Virginia