Owls are one of our most misunderstood birds. Why? First let’s look at some cool owl facts to understand why.
They have no teeth. So how do they chew their food? Ah, they don’t. They swallow their food whole (think rats, mice, insects, and birds). After digesting it, they throw up the bones & fur. Lovely.
Folklore often portrays owls as bad omens or associated with wizardry. Maybe because they can not turn their eyes.
Actually, owls don’t have eyeballs. They have fixed tubes, almost like binoculars.
In order to compensate, they can turn their head 270 degrees. Think about being able to spin your head almost completely around, but with fixed eyes. We can only rotate our heads half that far. Incredible!
And What Is A Zygoodactyl?
Third, their foot is called a zygodactyl (now that is a fun word). It has 3 toes facing forward and 1 toe facing backward so they can snatch their prey.
What Is A Group Of Owls Called?
One last tidbit in the category of owl facts. What is the name for a group of owls? If you read the Chronicles of Narnia (which I still love), you might know a group of owls is called a parliament.
The term was coined by author C.S. Lewis in the books. And speaking of books (and movies), owls deliver mail at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Which of course is a myth since owls can’t carry mail!
The Misunderstood Owl
All 220+ species of owls can be divided into just two families: barn owls and typical owls. They are mostly nocturnal, hunting for food at night, and solitary.
But getting back to being misunderstood. Often portrayed as evil omens, mystical and a symbol of death, people have have come to fear them. As a result, they are sometimes killed because people are afraid of them.
Why Are Owls Important?
Owls are critical to our environment as apex predators. They keep rodent and insect populations controlled naturally, both around your house and around crops. No dangerous pesticides needed!
One of the biggest threats to owls is rodent poison. If you use poison to get rid of mice & rats, you are also killing any animals that feed on those mice & rats, including owls. Since an owl eats up to 3 rats a night, they are much better rodent controllers than poison.
And owls contribute to our economy? Now that sounds a little farfetched! Well, since owls are one of the most popular birds for bird watchers and bird watchers spend lots of money on tourism to see birds, it makes sense.
And last. but not least, many artists, including Dale, love depicting owls. Art not only helps boast economic development, but touches our heart & soul. Dale’s sculpture of a life-sized snowy owl, “Riding the White Wind”, carved from Yule marble is in the permanent collection of Brookgreen Gardens.
How Can We Help?
Educate everyone you know about the dangers of using rodent poisoning. It kills owls!
Keep all food and wrappers inside your car. What happens when you throw food out of your car along roadsides? Owls often swoop down to inspect/eat the food and then are hit by a car.
If you own property, keep netting, barbed wire, etc out. Owls, like all birds, can get tangled up and die. And you might want to consider putting up an owl nesting box to help them with a place to live.
With 220 species of owls, find out what kind of owls live in your neighborhood. In our North Carolina mountains, we have five kinds of owls. Each owl has a distinctive call at night which you can learn to recognize. Listen to 4 owl calls in the video below. Which is your favorite?
You can also check out all kinds of fun activities online to learn more about owls. Everything from drawing owls to building a nest box is included in a guide from The National Wildlife Federation.
Bird’s Eye View, all about owls by National Geographic