Owls are among the most ancient birds on our planet. According to ornithologists, owls lived in North America several tens of millions of years ago. It is believed that the first owl-like bird lived in the Mesozoic period around 250 million years BC.
In the legends of the Middle Ages, owls act as mystical characters who see the past, future and present, in those days people were afraid and avoided them. In the perception of a modern person, an owl is the wisest bird in the world. These birds are mentioned in the Bible in the prophecies of Isaiah, and the Babylonian bas-reliefs depict the goddess Ishtar, accompanied by two owls.
In nature, these birds play a very important role, preventing the growth of populations of mice and other rodents that damage agriculture and forestry.
Owls are birds from the order Strigiformes. It includes over two hundred bird species. Owls live almost everywhere except Antarctica. They are found in deserts, steppes, high in the mountains, on the sea coast, in forests, villages and even in large metropolitan areas. They generally avoid open areas, except for some species such as short-eared owls. Part of the population of these birds leads a sedentary lifestyle, some regularly fly from place to place. Most of them are nocturnal and hunt in the dark.
Owls differ in that they have a kind of facial disc, consisting of 5 rows of hard feathers, forming a round corolla. The flight feathers are characterized by the presence of bends at the ends, as well as a bend towards the body. Some species have fringes or sawtooth ends on the first three feathers. Thanks to this design feature, owls can fly completely silently. The third and fourth feathers are somewhat longer. The tail feathers are located on a relatively short tail and also have a characteristic curve, but only downward. The owl’s legs are almost completely covered with small but dense plumage.
Regardless of the species, the owl is distinguished by the presence of rather large eyes. The owl bird is a predator, and it needs to track down prey, so the eyes are located not on the sides, but in front. The owl’s eyes are motionless and look only straight ahead. To change the direction of gaze, the bird needs to turn its head. The owl’s viewing angle is 160 °. And they can turn their head 180 and even 270 degrees.
Binocular vision provides clear black and white images. The lens of owls is not located in the eyeball, but in the horn tube, so birds can see perfectly at night. The owl also sees well during the day, although many believe that this is not so. In fact, the eyes of this predator are not particularly sensitive to daylight. The owl’s pupil narrows and expands not only in conditions of fluctuating lighting, but also with each inhalation and exhalation.
Hearing in these birds is about 50 times better than in humans and 4 times better than in cats. As soon as the victim betrays himself with a rustle or sound, the bird rushes at it with lightning speed, developing a speed of up to 80 kmh (50 mph).
The color of owls depends on the habitat, adapting, for example, to the peculiarities of tree bark and acting as a disguise. In order to be convinced of the amazing variety of colors of these birds, you can see a photo of an owl bird.
It is almost impossible to distinguish females from males by plumage color and external features. Some owl species exhibit reverse sexual dimorphism when females are larger than males. Scientists explain this by the fact that it is easier for a lighter and more agile male to catch prey, and a well-fed female will be able to stay in the nest longer without food.
What does an owl eat?
This bird, both in its natural habitat and in captivity, eats rodents, small birds, insects, animals. The diet depends on the owl’s habitat. Medium and large owls feed on rats, mice, lemmings, hedgehogs, lizards, shrews, hares, frogs, toads, bats, moles, snakes, chickens. Little owls eat mainly insects (beetles, grasshoppers), while
birds living in coastal areas eat fish, crabs and mussels. Owls found in tropical countries eat fruits, plants and berries. An owl bird can live for several months without water, quenching its thirst with the blood of its victims.
Owls do not eat carrion. In winter, they can store supplies right in the nests. Sometimes several dozen frozen field mice accumulate there.
Breeding and reproduction
Owls breed about once a year. The female incubates the egg for about a month, and the male provides her with food during this period. Often, due to the uneven distribution of food, some chicks lag behind others in growth, and in times of hunger they can easily be eaten by the stronger ones.
How long do owls live
The life expectancy of most owls ranges from five to ten years, but there are cases when owls kept in a zoo survived to forty or even fifty years. The main reason owls die is due to lack of nutrition. In years when the number of rodents is small, about a quarter of the young offspring die. Also, owls are often attacked by other predators – hawks, golden eagles and others. Even some small species of birds can attack owls sitting on trees during daylight hours.
The presence of natural enemies in owls depends on their habitat. In mountainous areas it can be eagles and vultures, in the forest-steppe zone – hawks and other birds of prey. Young polar owls are sometimes attacked by Arctic foxes and skuas. Large eagle owls have practically no natural enemies. Occasionally it happens that bears or wolves attack their chicks.