Owls are some of the world’s most beloved birds of prey: their big eyes and round faces are pretty adorable! But what actually makes an owl an owl– what separates it from other birds of prey?

Like all birds of prey, owls have keen eyesight and sharp beaks and claws. Owls’ eyes face forward like ours, giving them what’s called binocular vision. Their eyes are fixed in their sockets, so they turn their heads to see what’s going on to their left and right. The feathers on their round faces help funnel light to their eyes so they can see better in the dark, and they also help direct sound to their keen ears. The tufts of feathers on top of most owls’ heads aren’t actually their ears, though– like all birds, their ears are tiny openings on their heads. Those big tufts are probably for camouflage or to signal to other owls.

Good hearing and eyesight help owls to hunt during the night– just about all owl species are nocturnal, so they need extra-sharp senses to hunt in the dark! They also have soft-edged feathers so that they can fly silently and take their prey by surprise.

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Photo by Charlesjsharp

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