An Owl’s Journey
I would like to dedicate the 100th post of Faith Sees Birds to owls. The following post is just going to be owls around the world, not just in Oregon.
Owls are magnificent creatures. Not only are they intelligent, but they are also graceful, and elegant too. Owls range in sizes from America’s smallest owl, the Northern Saw-whet owl, to the largest owl in America, the Great Gray Owl.
Did you know there are more than 200 different owl species on earth? Each with their different features and personalities. Lets start with the beloved Great Horned Owl (Bubo Virginianus).
Great Horned Owls are extremely fierce and have only a few predators.
These owls are colored different shades of brown to help with camouflage. They are a very large specie of owl, with the females being the larger one of the genders, sporting a wingspan of around 50 inches long.
Great horned owls’ eyes are incredibly large and powerfully acute. Did you know that owls’ eyes take up 70% of their head while humans’ eyes take up only 5%?
Click on the picture above to read more about Great Horned Owls.
Lets talk about owls’ heads.
Have you ever seen night vision goggles? They are very big and very expensive. Human hunters use night vision goggles to hunt at night, but there are a type of hunters who hunt at night but don’t have to use vision goggles: owls. Owls have amazingly large, keen eyes, with a high density of rod cells in their retinas. These details help to muster up enough available light, so they can hunt at night (without night vision goggles).
Another adaptation that helps them hunt is their hearing. In the middle of a cold, harsh winter, hunting is hard for many birds. A large layer of snow covers the floor, and rodents run in tunnels created beneath the snow. Many raptors cannot find the rodents, but that doesn’t include owls. Owls can hear the small rodents running, and will quickly pounce down on the area where the rodent is. Did you know that owls’ heads are shaped like a satellite to direct sound towards their hidden ears?
Owls have another ability that helps them hunt without being detected: silent flight. Owls have feathers that are designed so that when they fly, you can barely hear it. Don’t believe me? Watch this amazing video.
If someone or something glides through air, it causes waves of vibration. We process these waves as sound. For something to move through the air without making any sound, we’d have to prevent the cause of vibration waves. The owls’ feathers have little hairs all over the side of the feather, which, when in the air, causes the air stream to break up the vibration waves into tinier air streams that are sent in all directions, preventing a single air vibration wave.
Quick Nesting Facts:
- Owls lay eggs in intervals of 1 to 3 days, and rarely hatch at the same time.
- The eggs are usually white, and range in size according to the size of the owl.
Owls have a variety of different calls. When we think of owls, we think of ”hoo-hoo-hoo,” but that isn’t the only call they have (some species don’t even hoot at all). Hooting is usually just them declaring their territory. Screeching, hissing, and screaming, are other calls that lots of owls have. Their calls travel far, enabling them to locate mates or declare territories. Listen to the Great Horned Owl calls.
“Great Horned Owls advertise their territories with deep, soft hoots with a stuttering rhythm: hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo. The male and female of a breeding pair may perform a duet of alternating calls, with the female’s voice recognizably higher in pitch than the male’s. Young owls give piercing screams when begging for food, while adults may scream to defend the nest. Adults make an array of other sounds, including whistles, barks, shrieks, hisses, coos, and wavering cries.“
~Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
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