The Bird Owl Species has captivated people throughout the world for many centuries. To many, Owls are the harbingers of death, to others they are symbols of mystery and intrigue. On this page I will discuss the cry of the owl and provide the answer to the question what do owls eat...
One of the most interesting facts about Owls is their incredible ability to capture people’s imaginations. Just by looking into the eyes of a member of the bird owl species one is instantly transported in to a world of fantasy, dark magic and power.
Owls are by definition mysterious creatures. Owl folklore has always been one of which craft, magic and superstition.
Often the cry of the owl has been associated with eerie foreboding and imminent tragedy. However, nowadays the bird owl species is seen as a symbol of wisdom.
The Cry of the Owl
The cry of the owl is one of the most evocative sounds in the animal kingdom. The cry of the owl can be likened to the cry of the wolf in the fact that it conjures up so many pictures in our imaginations.
The cry of the owl can vary greatly between different species. Many of the eagle owls make the easily recognisable “ooh ooh” sound. However the cry of the owl can also manifest itself in other ways. Owls can make a lot more noises than we think. The barn owls especially have quite a repertoire. They often hiss, shriek, coo and click their beaks.
The cry of the Owl is also interesting with the Tawny Owl. The “twit twoo” sound actually is often two owls not one. The first “twit”s and the second will reply.
The Wise Old Owl
Although owls certainly look the part, the presumption that owls are wise is sadly a complete myth. In fact Owls are rather slow and not particularly intelligent at all. The diurnal (day hunting) raptors are generally much quicker and cleverer.
This is mainly down to the fact that about 95% of an owl’s brain power is taken up simply for its eyes. An Owls eye is very large; much larger than any of the diurnal birds of prey.
In fact, there is very little physical space for the brain once you have taken into account that most of an owls head is puffy feathers and eye sockets.
An Owl’s eyes are incredibly powerful. Although scientists believe that owls do not see in full colour, they certainly see in great detail and their eyes are extremely fine tuned to spotting movement.
The bird owl species however is very long sighted and they are almost blind at very close range.
This, you can see if you go to a falconry display. When the falconer is feeding the owl on the glove, you might well notice that the owl has to fumble around for quite a while before finding the food morsel.
To help them with this problem, most species of owl are equipped with short bristly hair-like feathers around the beak area called crines. They use these to feel where the food is. In fact at close range owls will instinctively close their eyes whilst feeding. This is a safety feature for the owl as in the wild; eyes may be damaged during a struggle with prey.
Owl Species; Weaponry
Owl beaks are very weak. In fact they do not really use their beaks as weapons at all. Owl talons on the other hand are deadly. The two most powerful owls are the Great Horned Owl (bubo virginianus) and the Eurasion Eagle Owl (bubo bubo).
The great horned owl has a fearsome reputation and has been known to carry off prey many times its size and weight. Although it is smaller than the eurasion eagle owl, it is the most predatory of all the owls and will often prey on other raptors. Even large birds of prey such as the red tailed hawk have been known to have been taken by the great horned owl.
The Eurasion Eagle Owl is the largest of all the owls. With a wingspan of 9 feet and talons and feet to match, this bird owl is a very impressive sight.
This owl is an extremely powerful predator and the crushing power in its talons is enormous.
Bird Owl Species-Evolution
Owls evolved along a different line than the diurnal birds of prey, they are in fact not related at all. The Bird owl species are split up into two main groups.
Barn Owls, Tytonidae, 17 species.
All other Owls are in the family strigidae. This consists of a total of 161 species
The Bird Owl species groups are quite different anatomically speaking to the diurnal raptors. One of the main differences is the fact that Owls have a flexible joint on one of their toes. This means during flight they have three of the four toes facing farward to aid grasping power. When perching two face forward and two back.
Another difference is that owls are feathered all the way down to their toes. This helps them to keep warm and to protect from harmful bites.
A very important difference is in the feathers. Falcon feathers for example are designed to cut through the air. In fact, if a peregrine falcon flies past you at speed. The ripping sound it makes as cuts through the air is very loud. Owl feathers on the other hand have a small layer of smaller down round the edge of each feather. This “buffs” the air as the owl passes through making the owl’s flight completely silent.
Owls are extremely specialised hunters. They hunt using their silent flight as their main weapon. Whilst they gain the advantage of silent flight, there is a reverse side to every advantage.
Because the feathers buff the air rather than cut through it they also lose a huge amount of speed. Owls are very slow fliers. This means they have to use the element of surprise. Owls will often fly very close to the ground when attacking (quartering) as the prey is normally expecting an attack from above.
The Bird Owl Species also have asymmetrical hearing. This means they have one ear higher than the other (the tufts on the head of eagle owls are not ears and in fact seem to have no purpose other than possibly to break up the outline of the owl to provide better camouflage), owls use these ears as a radar to pinpoint the exact point of the prey.
The owl only has to bob its head and it can triangulate the location of prey. This technique is incredibly accurate. A Barn owl can pinpoint the exact position of a mouse 20 feet away and under two feet of snow!
Here is a video of a Great Grey Owl doing just that!
So What Do Owls Eat ?
What do owls eat...Owls, like all birds of prey are completely carnivorous. They eat nothing but raw meat, so please no one buy a barn owl and try to feed it bird seed...it will not be best pleased. Owls are different to diurnal birds of prey in that they do not have crops.
This means the food goes directly in to the stomach and normally food is swallowed whole!
What do owls eat...small owls like elf owls, pearl spotted owlets and burrowing owls eat almost only insects..
What do owls eat...medium owls like barn owls and tawny owls eat mainly small rodents such as mice and voles..
What do owls eat...large owls like great horned owls and eurasion eagle owls eat rodents, birds and mammals up to the size of foxes and deer.
A Eurasion eagle owl can also reputedly swallow a hedgehog whole! Great horned owls have also been known to kill cats and even snowy owls are sometimes hunted.
Contrary to popular belief, not all owls are nocturnal. In fact the majority of owls are crepuscular. This means they hunt mainly at dusk and dawn.
Some bird owl species are in fact diurnal including some of the desert owl species. Burrowing owls are very active during the day, in fact burrowing owls are very active in general. Here is a photo of one...
Use In Falconry
Owls are not specifically used much in falconry. Because of their slow flight, it is difficult for them to be successful. This is mainly due to the fact that their biggest advantage, the element of surprise is lost because of the presence of the falconer.
Owls however are flown with great enjoyment and success all round the world and can make wonderful companions. Bird owl species are nearly always imprinted (hand reared). This is due to the fact that their natural fear of humans is very hard to get over if they are not hand reared.
Feel free to browse the rest of the site ;) Owls are amazing creatures..for me they are the most beautiful of all the birds of prey and some of the most rewarding to fly. I hope you have enjoyed my owl page and I hope you get a chance to comment or submit your owl story below.