Owl Facts



Modified: 31 May 2023

For centuries, owls have been known to be mysterious animals of the night. They are also known as one of the most intelligent bird species on the planet with an exceptional skill set.
Owls are also known to be a good form of pest control in country lands as they prey on mice and small creatures. Find out more about these amazing birds with these chilling owl facts.

  1. Depending on the species, owls stand from 4 to 27 inches tall.
  2. Owls can live up to 25 years old.
  3. Owls have binocular vision.
  4. Only a few owl species are capable of hunting fish.
  5. A group of owls is called a parliament. 
  1. Owls are mostly solitary animals.
  2. The head of an owl is large and broad.
  3. They can almost fully rotate their heads.
  4. Owls have incredibly sharp talons used for catching prey.
  5. The feathers of an owl are adapted to fly silently during the night.
  6. Typically, an owl will hunt for small mammals and insects. 
  7. Owls can be found in all regions of the world excluding those with extremely cold climates.
  8. Owls can be classified into the Animalia kingdom.
  9. They are also members of the Chordata Phylum.
  10. Owls are classified into the Aves group.
  1. Owls have a binaural hearing.
  2. Some owls also hunt for other small birds as prey.
  3. Female owls are typically larger than males. 
  4. All owls are carnivorous birds.
  5. The most common prey of owls are mice and other small rodents.
Table of Contents

Owl Facts Infographics

Owl Facts Infographics

A baby owl is called an owlet.

Upon hatching, the female owl will typically sit or brood on her newborn owlets to keep them warm. The mother will also hunt for food and feed the owlets until they are old enough to fend for themselves. 

Typically, newborns nest for six weeks and take their first flight when they are around 7 to 8 weeks old. By the time the autumn season rolls around, most parents finish raising their families, with their children considered full-grown owls.

The Court of Owls is a fictional organized crime group.

This fictional crime group exists in the DC superhero Batman‘s universe in Gotham City. The crime group was first introduced in the comics in 2011 as part of the ‘Robin War’ storyline. 

Since then, the crime group has been mentioned in the comics numerous times and is considered to be one of the biggest crime groups in the comics. 

Owls come in 2 main categories.

All owl species belong to two groups: the Tytonidae and Strigidae. Typical owls fall under the Strigidae group, while barn owls classify under the Tytonidae group.

Generally, the Strigidae group contains around 224 species of owls while the Tytonidae family only has around 20. The main difference between the two can be seen in the shapes of their faces. Barn owls typically have heart-shaped faces, while regular owls have rounder ones. 

Most of an owl's legs are hidden.

Although owls look stocky at first glance, they actually have incredibly long legs hidden by their plump bodies. The full length of an owl’s legs can’t usually be seen unless its body is lifted higher or when its legs drop down during flight. 

Owls do not build their nests.

More commonly, an owl will take a nest left by a different bird to lay eggs. The female owl would also take scraps of debris and other materials to make the nest sturdier and softer for its eggs. 

Around 90% of barn owls will nest once a year, while the remaining 10% will nest twice. However, more commonly, an owl never uses the same nest twice.

Owl Facts
Source: Pexels

Owls will molt their feathers at least once a year.

Owls molt their feathers to replace old and damaged ones. The molting process for owls takes around 3 months to complete and happens simultaneously all over its body. 

Owls also have molting patterns that allow them to molt different layers of feathers at a time. 

The owl's hoot has several uses.

Owls hoot as a primary communication with other owls. However, research has shown that owls also do this to claim their territory and warn others of its presence. 

This way, the hoot prevents intruders from entering their territory. 

Owls have around 14 vertebrates in their neck.

Humans and usual birds have around 7 vertebrates found in their neck. However, owls have double the amount. The extra vertebrates in their neck gives owls a wider range of motion, with the ability to rotate their heads 270°.

An owl's eye color indicates its hunting preferences.

An owl’s eye color is an evolutionary trait that allows them to blend in with their surroundings when hunting. That said, owls with dark brown eye color indicates that they prefer to hunt during the night.

Additionally, owls with orange eyes actively hunt during twilight. Owls with yellow eyes indicate that they are diurnal or stay active during the day. 

Owls have three eyelids.

The owl’s upper eyelid closes downwards when it blinks. Meanwhile, the lower eyelid closes when the owl is sleeping. 

Lastly, the third eyelid of the owl is referred to as the nictitating membrane, which protects the eye from dust and keeps it moist. 

Throughout the films, Harry Potter's owl Hedwig was played by 7 different owls.

The main owl that took on the role was a trained owl named Gizmo. Much like any seasoned actor, Gizmo had different owl doubles. Among these owl extras were Kasper, Oops, Swoops, Oh Oh, Elmo, and Bandit. 

The Harry Potter film series features many different owl breeds as companions to the supporting characters.

The earliest depiction of owls dates back to 30,000 years ago.

The earliest instance of owls featured in art was found as an image of a long-eared owl etched onto the Chauvet cave in France. The piece was found in the second section of the cave separate from the first chamber section. 

The eyes of an owl take up most of the space in its head.

Aside from their distinct hoot, an owl’s most notable characteristic is its large eyes. As expected, an owl’s eyes take up most of the space in their skulls. Female owls typically have larger and heavier eyes compared to the males of their species. 

To further illustrate, the eyes of a Great Horned owl weigh around 25.7 grams together, or as heavy as a golf ball. 

The great horned owl can curl its talons with incredible strength.

The great horned owl can clamp its talons with a force of around 300 pounds per square inch. If you have a hard time picturing that, this force is as powerful as the strongest human bite. 

Great horned owls use these talons to latch onto their prey and keep them from escaping. With its force, the owl can instantly crush and devour its prey. How’s that for terrifying owl facts?

In the Harry Potter world, owls are used as the main means of communication.

Not only do owls serve as a common pet in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, but they also serve as messenger birds. Throughout the films, owls can be seen flying to different wizards to deliver messages tucked into a compartment they wear on their legs. 

The Harry Potter universe also has an owl postal service where many different breeds of owls deliver letters and small packages to the receiver. 

Owl Facts
Source: Pexels

Not all species of owls can hoot.

Unlike regular owls, barn owls do not hoot. Instead, these owls are known to communicate with each other through screams. 

Barn owls also make hissing noises at intruders and predators who attempt to disturb its nest. These sounds will last anywhere between 2 to 4 seconds long. Definitely one of the more interesting owl facts.

A group of owls can be called by many names.

While a group of owls is more commonly known as a parliament, other names can also apply. These include the terms congress and the lesser-used term, state. 

Some also refer to a group of owls as a flock.

Shakespeare once described an owl as a fatal bellman.

In his play Macbeth, Shakespeare depicted owls as messengers of death. Generally speaking, a bellman’s job to ring the parish bell when someone is near death. 

This was also referred to as the passing bell that signals its hearers to pray for the soul of the dying person.

Owls are said to be incredibly intelligent.

In ancient Greek, owls were considered symbols of wisdom and focus. Over time, this belief continued into modern practice. 

In modern behavioral science, it is believed that those who stay up at night are called night owls. Research has also found that these people tend to be more intelligent than early birds. 

It is illegal to keep an owl as a pet in the United States.

The US government only allows a person to keep an owl as a pet after they complete training and acquire a proper license. However, more places in the world prohibits the domestication of owls.  

These laws are established to prevent the extinction of certain owl species in the world. 

In 2300 BC, the goddess of death Lilitu was depicted with owl-like features.

In ancient Mesopotamian myths, the goddess of death was represented with owl-like features such as talons, feet, and feathery wings. 

The image of Lilitu often portrays her nude with owl features and horns.

Owls represented Athena in ancient Greece.

In Greek mythology, the owl of Athena is commonly found on the shoulder of the goddess. According to the lore, this owl revealed the truth of the world to Athena and gave her wisdom. 

Some also believe that because Athena is the goddess of wisdom, it is only fitting that one of her symbols is associated with the owl. The owl also represents Athena’s ability to see what others cannot, hence making her wiser. 

The American animated series Owl House first aired on January 10th, 2020.

The series follows the protagonist Luz who gets transported to another world filled with magic. During her introduction to the world, she befriends a witch and becomes her apprentice in sorcery. 

This witch is known as Eda The Owl Witch, infamous for her crimes and mischief. 

Some ancient Roman carvings depict Jews as owls.

The ancient carvings show Jews in the form of owls and are mobbed by several flocks of doves or sparrows. These birds represent the overwhelming population of Christians who do not share similar views in terms of religion. 

Owls are commonly associated with witchcraft in parts of South Africa.

In the country of South Africa, owls commonly symbolize death and witchcraft. This is because owls naturally have nocturnal habits that associates them with mystery and suspicion. 

Many ancient beliefs also assigned owls as the pets and servants of witches and sorcerers. In traditional medicine, body parts from owls are often used as a common ingredient. 

Owl Facts
Source: Pexels

Owls are incredibly difficult to train.

Many pet owners who keep owls find it difficult to train owls properly. This is mainly due to the bird’s nocturnal nature which makes them less active during the day. 

The owl of Harry Potter shares its name with two famous saints.

Harry’s pet owl owes its name to Saint Hedwig of Andechs, who was a former duchess. At the time, she was well known for her benevolence and compassionate nature. 

Another saint shares the same name: Saint Hedwig of Poland, who served as its Queen until 1399. Additionally, Hedwig’s death in Harry Potter symbolized the main character’s loss of innocence and the beginning of his maturity. 

Owls have zygodactyl feet.

Owl feet each has two toes that face forward and one toe that faces backward. However, unlike other bird species, owls can pivot their back toes forward to help them grip onto things. 

This back toe also helps them walk on trees and other surfaces without falling.

In the old testament of Christianity, the word Lilith means screech owl.

This refers to the ominous bird-like qualities of the Babylonian she-demon. For some, the Biblical character Lilith was also known as the night hag and the night monster. 

Lilith is depicted to be evil in most iterations of the story, eventually banished to a desert wasteland to suffer. 

Some owls are diurnal.

Of all owl species in the world, only two aren’t nocturnal.  

These diurnal owls are known as the Northern Hawk Owl and the Northern Pygmy-Owl. 

The largest recorded owl is now extinct.

The Ornimegalonyx is Cuba’s extinct giant owl. It is also the largest known recorded owl to ever exist. This owl was first discovered by Oscar Paulino Arredondo de la Mata, otherwise known as the father of Cuban Vertebrate paleontology

Remains of this bird were first found as subfossils during 1954.

Research has shown that owls are one of the oldest types of birds.

Owls are considered to be the earliest and oldest of bird species due to the proven existence of prehistoric birds that share similar traits. These include ancient birds such as the Berruornis and the Ogygoptynx that lived over 60 million years ago. 

This makes owls one of the most ancient types of birds, along with chickens, pheasants, and turkeys. 

An owl's eyeballs are not ball-shaped at all.

Contrary to popular belief, the eyes of an owl are not round at all. Instead, their eyes are tube-shaped or more cylindrical. Unlike humans and other animals, owls can’t move their eyes inside their sockets.  

To see their surroundings, owl have to turn their heads instead of sideways or upside down. 

Owls have more black and white detecting rods in their eyes than color cones.

This means that owls mostly see in black and white vision rather than color. Researchers have found that certain hues of color are too intense for owls to see, such as the color red. 

However, because of this, they are considered to have excellent night vision which allows them to hunt better at night. 

There are around 220 owl species in the world.

The majority of these owl species are categorized into the Strigidae family. These classifications of owls also have different anatomy than the common barn owl.  

Owl Facts
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Barn owls eat an average of 1,000 mice a year.

Many often use barn owls as a form of pest control from small insects and mammals such as mice. When owls hunt for small mammals, they swallow them whole in one piece. 

On average, owls can eat around 12 mice per night. How’s that for practical owl facts?

The ears of an owl are asymmetrical.

One ear of the owl will always be higher than the other to help them locate their prey at night. Most of an owl’s hearing receptors are also found in their brain. 

However, because their ears are not aligned they will often hear sounds at two different times. This feature is a unique development attained by owls through evolution. 

Nearly 33% of the world’s owl population are endangered or at risk.

This is mostly caused by the loss of their habitats from deforestation. Its population also grows smaller due to hunting problems and certain illnesses inherent to owls. 

Because they lose their habitats, they also lose their major food source, threatening the overall ecology.

The smallest owl in the world stands five inches tall.

True to its namesake, the Elf Owl only grows to a mere five inches tall. This owl species only hunts for small insects and spiders as its main food source. 

Elf owls typically live in woodlands and desert cactus habitats located in Southern Arizona. 

Owls have the best night vision compared to any other animal on earth.

During the night, it is said that the owl has great vision much similar to that of an eagle. Their eyes also have a reflective surface behind their retinas.

This surface is known as the tapetum lucidum

Owls can swim.

While they rarely do so, owls can swim through water. However, these birds generally avoid swimming as they have no means of defense in the water. 

Owls also generally avoid getting soaked since they would be unable to fly with wet feathers.

The flat face of an owl funnels sounds to their ears.

The facial disc of an owl allows it to funnel sounds of their prey to their ears. Many owl species will have their facial discs asymmetrically as their ears are also not aligned with each other. 

The northern hawk owl can hear its prey up to 12 inches underneath the snow.

The Northern Hawk Owl is one of the few owl species that is capable of hunting by using only its hearing. Research has stated that these owls can hear their prey underneath thick layers of snow during the winter. 

Once their prey is located, the northern hawk owl will swoop down on its prey and catch it with its sharp talons. 

The Aztecs and Mayans feared owls.

In the Aztec and Mayan culture, many tribes feared owls as they are considered to be a symbol of death. In Aztec mythology, the god of death is also often visualized with an owl by its side.

Owls are considered apex predators.

The owl is considered to play an important role in urban ecosystems. This is mainly due to their ability to regulate movement with their prey. 

Apex predators are also known as alpha predators. These animals are considered to be the top of their food chain as no other animal regularly preys on them.

Owl Facts
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The eyes of owls account for 5% of its total body weight.

Owl’s eyes are fairly large for the shape of its head. Their eyes are also powerful and adapt well to dark environments. 

Depending on the species, its eyes can weigh as much as 5% of its total body weight. 

The largest owl found in North America can grow up to 32 inches tall.

With an average wingspan of to 152 cm, the Great Grey Owl is one of the largest owl species found in North America by length. Scattered across the northern hemisphere, the average adult great grey owl can weigh as much as 1,900 g.

The male species are also generally smaller than the females of the species. 

The Eurasian eagle-owl prey on larger animals such as foxes.

These owls are known to prey on rabbits and ducks as well. They are also capable of catching faster prey such as the hummingbird and even raptors.

The Eurasian eagle-owl will also occasionally hunt for other prey such as reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

The Ancient Egyptians believed that owls protected the spirits of the dead.

The owl holds great significance in Ancient Egyptian culture. In ancient times, the owl was believed to be a guardian of the underworld.

Egyptians believed that the owl could protect the souls of the deceased and those who cross over to the underworld. 

In Japan, the Blakiston’s fish owl is called the Emperor of the Night.

This species of owl ranks among the largest living species of owls on the planet. These owls typically live in large and old trees as their nesting ground.

They commonly live close to lakes, rivers, or springs to use as a water source that does not freeze over during the winter. The first collected specimen for this species was taken from the Hakodate area in Hokkaido, Japan

The Wardaman tribe in Australia believes that owls created the world.

More specifically, this particular tribe believes that an owl named Gordol created the world. The Wardaman tribe is a small group of indigenous Australians who have lived in the South West of the Northern Territory of Australia. 

The largest facial disc on an owl is on the great grey owl.

Its facial disc size is considered bigger than any raptor or owl species. The adult Great Grey Owl also weighs an average of a kilogram for its full-grown size. Currently the IUCN classifies the species under Least Concern.

The Harry Potter series made owls popular.

The release of the Harry Potter series increased the popularity of pet owls in several countries, particularly in Indonesia. Hundreds of species were caught from the wild to be sold off as pets in bird markets. 

This trend was prominent up until the early 2010s when the demand for pet owls slowly decreased.

Owls vomit their meals after hunting.

The owl has two stomachs. The first is referred to as the glandular stomach which produces the acids and mucus in its body to help the owl separate digestible and indigestible parts of its prey. 

After swallowing its prey whole, the owl vomits out other indigestible remains such as its fur and bones. In total, the owl’s digestion process takes around ten hours to complete. 

The great grey owl is the world’s largest owl species.

This species of owl is the only one found in the Genus Strix group in both the east and west hemispheres. In some areas of the world, the Great Grey Owl is also referred to as the Phantom of the North. 

The Great Grey Owl grows up to an average of 72 cm tall. 

Owl Facts
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Owls have been known to hunt other owls.

The owl is a carnivorous bird known to prey on small mammals and insects. However, some species of owls feed on their kind as well. 

These species of owls include the Snowy Owl and as well as the Great Horned Owl. These owls have been recorded to injure and kill other owls that violate its territory. 

The northern saw-whet owl can travel distances over large bodies of water.

This particular species of owl is capable of maintaining flight over long distances. Saw-Whet owls are also one of the smallest owl species found in North America. 

While these owls can fly over great distances at a time, these birds are considered to be non-migratory. 

There is a tribe in Kazakhstan that worships the owl spirit.

In this tribe, only the female shamans of the group perform rituals in an attempt to connect with the spirit of owls. The Kazakh tribe is separated into three major clans which include the elder tribe, the central horde, and the junior tribe. 

Around 25% of the time, owls will leave their mate to look for another.

Although owls are typically known to be monogamous creatures, there are a few cases in which these pairs will separate at a later time. These scenarios include the inabilityto hatch children. 

When such a case does occur, the female will typically seek another mate while the male will stay in its original breeding nest. However, most of these pairs typically only spend a year together. 

Owls feed their strongest children first.

When raising their young, the male will typically hunt for food and bring it back to the nest. Additionally, the female will tear up their prey into small pieces and feed them to their babies.

The parents prioritize feeding the strongest youngling first before its other siblings. This will leave the youngest or the weakest youngling to starve when food is scarce.