Owls are birds belonging to the order Strigiformes which includes about 200 species of mostly solitary, nocturnal birds of prey. They are typified by an upright stance, a large, broad head, binocular vision, binaural hearing, sharp talons, and feathers adapted for silent flight. Exceptions include the diurnal northern hawk-owl and the gregarious burrowing owl.
Owls provide great benefits in the garden. When present, farmers and gardeners can use fewer poisons to kill vermin and pests. A family of barn owls has the ability to gobble down several thousand rodents in the course of a nesting season. The young can eat two to four rodents a night. Barn owls rank very high for rodent control, but other owl species can also significantly reduce the number of mice, voles, and other pests in a garden. Perhaps the easiest owl to attract is the screech owl. Depending on where you live, its breeding season runs from mid-March through mid-May. Screech owls will readily move into correctly placed owl boxes when trees with nesting holes are not available. Great horned owls also reside in many neighborhoods where they will sometimes hunt rabbits and small cats.
Many owl species have asymmetrical ears. When turned at different angles, their ears are able to pinpoint the location of sounds in multiple dimensions. The eyes of an owl are not true eyeballs. They're tube-shaped and completely immobile. This provides a type of binocular vision that allows owls to fully focus on their prey while at the same time boosting their depth perception. Owls have the ability to rotate their necks 270 degrees. When doing so, a blood-pooling system collects blood to sustain the brain and eyes.
The coloration of the owl’s plumage plays a key role in its ability to sit still and blend into the environment by making it nearly invisible to prey. Owls tend to mimic the coloration and even the texture patterns of their surroundings, the common barn owl being an exception. Usually, the only tell-tale sign of a perched owl is its vocalizations or vivid eyes.
Owls will hunt other owls. Great Horned Owls are the main predators of the smaller Barred Owl. The tiniest owl in the world, the Elf Owl, is 5-6 inches tall and weighs about 1.5 ounces. In appearance, the largest North American owl is the Great Gray Owl which can stand up to 32 inches tall. The Northern Hawk Owl can detect, primarily by sight, a vole at a distance of up to a half-mile away. In years when mice populations are abundant, the usually monogamous Boreal Owl is apt to mate indiscriminately. Easy prey means less work for parents feeding their young, and during those times males have been seen mating with up to three females. Many other types of birds fear the owl. The sight of a fake owl on top of a building will keep pigeons and other types of birds from making nests there.
There are two main categories of owls: barn owls and typical owls. There is quite a large size difference when it comes to the different owl species. Some of them are only around 4 inches tall at full maturity. The largest ones measure about 28 inches when fully grown. Their color varies depending on the region where they live. They tend to blend in well with their surroundings making it difficult to spot them unless you are diligently searching for them within a given environment. They are almost always found living alone. They will occasionally form pairs within a small flock, especially in areas where their natural habitat is shrinking.
The overall anatomy of the owl is interesting. They have large eyes, a rounded body, and small ears. They have excellent vision and sense of smell. They can fly very quickly; however, most of the time when you spot an owl, it will be perched and still.
Owls begin the day with an intriguing routine. They will always spend their first few waking hours meticulously preening and stretching. The talons are used to clean over the feathers. Then the beak is used to clean the talons. Unless scared by a predator, an owl will not leave its roost without performing this activity.
Extremely patient when stalking prey, owls wait for just the right time to swoop down and grab the unwary creature. They can snag prey both in water and on land. In some circumstances they can grab their prey from under the ground. Their powerful talons give them the ability to snare food and still continue in flight.
Owls are thought to be among the smartest of all birds, hence the old saying wise as an owl. A group of owls is called a parliament. That term originated from C.S. Lewis's description of a meeting of owls in his book, The Chronicles of Narnia.
(in my back yard)
(Credits: htps://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/attracting-owls; https://www.livescience.com/61629-superb-owl-facts.html; http://www.audubon.org/news/11-fun-facts-about-owls; http://www.owlworlds.com/; http://www.audubon.org/magazine/january-february-2015/whos-who; http://www.audubon.org/news/meet-tiniest-owl-world?ms=digital-eng-email-ea-series-_elf-owl_yob-welcome; photos top to bottom: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; Wendi Curti[email protected]; By chdwckvnstrsslhm [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)