21 Fun Owl Facts for Kids That You Won’t Believe

Let’s embark on a magical journey into the enchanting world of owls! With these 20 fun owl facts! From their remarkable head-turning talents to their silent, ghost-like flight, each point is like a key to a hidden treasure chest of knowledge.

Fun Owl Facts

So, fluff up your imagination and let your curiosity soar on silent wings as we dive into these interesting facts about the lives of owls.

Owls will rotate their heads up to 270 degrees

Owls will rotate their heads up to 270 degrees

 

Owls have a unique bone structure and a specialized circulatory system that allows them to rotate their heads without cutting off blood supply to the brain. Owls would not be excellent hunters without this unique adaptation.

  • This adaptation helps them scan their surroundings since their big eyes are fixed in their sockets.
  • They have 14 neck vertebrae, which is twice as many as humans.
  • This ability is crucial for hunting and observing their environment.

Some owl species build nests on the ground

Some owl species build nests on the ground

One of our top fun owl facts! While many owl species prefer the secluded heights of tree cavities or abandoned nests for raising their young, a few, including the Short-eared Owl, choose the earthy cradle of the ground for their nesting sites.

This is why habitat loss can be a big deal for some of these species. Some human activities like development can encroach on areas where owls nest on the ground.

  • The Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) is well-known for its ground-nesting habits, often choosing open fields, long grass, and meadows for laying its eggs directly on the ground, concealed by grass or underbrush.

  • For the short-eared owl, this preference for ground nesting is an adaptation to their open habitat environments, such as marshes, grasslands, and tundra, where trees may be scarce.

  • The snowy owl is one of the ground nesters; you can spot juvenile owls in the snow.

  • A burrowing owl takes over old prairie dog burrows and repurposes them as nest sites to raise their baby owlets!

Owls have silent flight

The leading edges of their primary wing feathers have a serrated design, reducing noise from turbulence. The large wings and small body, make it easy to generate a quiet flight. Owls can do less flapping with a slow and steady glide, and one single flap, they will get further than many other birds.

  •  This adaptation helps them sneak up on prey unnoticed.
  •  Their soft, velvety feather texture further muffles sound.
  •  Silent flight is a crucial factor in their hunting success.

Owl eyes are tube-shaped, not spherical

avian eye shapes

 

This unique shape provides better depth perception and allows them to see prey from long distances.

  •  Because of this shape, owls cannot move their eyes within their sockets.
  •  Their large forward-facing eyes help gather more light, enhancing their night vision. (Owls have good night vision)
  •  Owls compensate for their fixed eyes by turning their heads.

Some Owls have asymmetrical ears: fun owl facts

Some Owls have asymmetrical ears_ fun owl facts

 This unusual ear placement is one of those fun owl facts that allows some owls, like the Barred owl and the Long-eared Owl, to pinpoint the location of sounds more accurately. The International Owl Center dissected a few owls (that they found dead) and discovered that not all had asymmetrical ears. 

  •  One ear is often higher than the other, aiding in vertical sound localization.
  •  This adaptation is beneficial for hunting in the dark.
  •   Asymmetrical ears help owls catch prey hidden under leaves or snow.

Owls are on all continents except Antarctica

Owls are on all continents except Antarctica

  They have adapted to various habitats, from forested areas to desert regions to urban areas.

  •  Their adaptability includes various diets and nesting practices.
  •  Owls play a vital role in the worldwide ecosystem by controlling rodent populations.

  •  Some species have even adapted to urban environments, like the recent story of Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl who escaped a zoo and is thriving on the streets of NYC.

Snowy Owls wear winter boots all year round

Snowy Owls wear winter boots all year round

Unlike most other owl species, Snowy Owls (bubo scandiacus) have thick, fluffy, soft feathers covering their legs and feet. This special feathery attire is natural insulation, keeping them warm in the frigid Arctic habitats where they live and hunt.

This adaptation highlights the Snowy Owl’s incredible ability to thrive in one of Earth’s most extreme climates, showcasing nature’s ingenuity in ensuring survival.

  • Natural Insulation: The dense feathering acts like a cozy blanket, protecting them against icy temperatures and cold winds.
  • Camouflage: These leg feathers also help them blend into their snowy surroundings, making them stealthy hunters.

  • All-Terrain: The feathered feet provide additional grip when perching on slippery surfaces, ensuring they stay steady in their harsh environment.

Owls regurgitate pellets

Owls regurgitate pellets

Since they can’t digest bones and fur, they regurgitate these materials as pellets. You may find these indigestible parts of their prey in the woods if you are trying to spot an owl.

So, if you are wondering how to attract owls, it is one of the clues that you’ll look for. 

  • These regurgiated pellets provide valuable information about an owl’s diet and the biodiversity of an area.
  •  Studying pellets helps scientists understand food webs and predator-prey relationships.
  •  Teachers use pellets in educational settings for hands-on learning.

Many owl species are monogamous

Many owl species are monogamous and mate for life

They often form lifelong bonds with their mates and return yearly to the same nesting sites. A female snowy owl usually lays 3-11 eggs in a nest on the ground!

Some species barn owls, barred owls, snowy owls, great horned owls, spotted owls, and eastern screech owls

  •  Shared parenting duties are typical, with both parents involved in raising the young.
  •  Monogamous pairs often engage in duet calls to strengthen their bond.
  •  This lifelong partnership is beneficial for raising offspring.

Owls have zygodactyl feet

Owls have zygodactyl feet

Having this type of foot structure means their very sharp talons have two toes facing forward and two backward, providing a firmer grip on prey and branches.

  •  This toe arrangement is perfect for capturing and holding onto prey.
  •  Owls can rotate one of their back toes forward to change their grip.
  •  This adaptation is crucial for their predatory lifestyle.

Owls are mostly nocturnal

Owls are mostly nocturnal

Most species are active at night, exploiting their superior night vision and hearing.

  •  Their nocturnal habits help them avoid competition with daytime predators.
  •  Some species, however, are diurnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk).
  •  This adaptation, as successful nocturnal hunters, allows them to exploit different ecological niches.

Owl feathers are not waterproof: fun owl facts

Owl feathers are not waterproof_ fun owl facts

Unlike other birds (like parrots), their feathers lack oil, making them less resistant to water. 

  •  These unique feathers help reduce flight noise but avoid heavy rain when possible.

  • Owls can have a range of brown feathers to white feathers, with tan, grey, and deep brown in some species.
  •  Wet weather can make hunting difficult for owls.

  •  Some species have adapted to more arid environments to avoid this issue. Check out our list of Arizona birds of prey to see some typical desert owls.

Owls have a wide range of vocalizations

Here’s a barred owlet: courtesy of creative commons

And here’s an African grass owl for comparison: also from creative commons

Their calls include hoots, screeches, whistles, and even eerie screams.

  •  These sounds are used for communication, including mating calls and territorial warnings.
  •  Each species has distinctive calls, which they use for identification.
  •  Vocalizations (as with all birds) play a crucial role in social interactions and hunting.

Owls can have a wide field of vision

Owls can have a wide field of vision

Despite their fixed eyes, many species have excellent eyesight with an incredible field of vision of about 270 degrees.

  • This broad view helps compensate for their inability to move their eyes.
  • Owls have binocular vision like humans, which means they can see an object with both eyes like us.
  •  They rely heavily on this broad perspective to spot prey from various

Owls have a third eyelid: nictitating membrane

Owls have a third eyelid_ nictitating membrane

This transparent eyelid blinks sideways and helps protect and moisten the eyes while maintaining visibility.

  •  It acts like a windshield wiper, cleaning debris from the eye’s surface.

  •  This membrane closes when owls capture prey, protecting their eyes from injury.
  •  The nictitating membrane is crucial for maintaining eye health and clear vision.

Some owl species display sexual dimorphism

Some owl species display sexual dimorphism

  In many species, females are larger and more richly colored than males.

  • The larger size of females may be advantageous for protecting eggs and chicks.
  • The male snowy owl is usually pure white, while the female snowy owl will have brown bars and small brown spots.

Owls can have an impressive wingspan

Owls can have an impressive wingspan

 

The larger species, like the Great Gray Owl, can have a wingspan of up to 5 feet (1.5 meters), whereas the screech owl will have a wingspan of 1 to 2 feet.

  •  A large wingspan helps owls silently glide while hunting for prey.
  •  Despite their large wings, owls are very maneuverable, even in dense forests.
  •  This impressive wingspan is also used in displays of dominance or during mating rituals.

Owls play a significant role in mythology and culture

Owls play a significant role in mythology and culture

Throughout history, different owl species have been symbols of wisdom, mystery, and protection in various cultures. For example, you’ll often see the Tawny owl in human folklore due to their haunting night calls.

  •  In ancient Greece, the little owl was associated with Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
  •  Some cultures believed that owls had magical properties and could ward off evil.
  •  These cultural associations highlight the deep connection between humans and owls throughout history.

Owls have a varied diet

Owls have a varied diet

 

While most are carnivorous, preying on small mammals and insects, some have specialized diets.

  • The Elf Owl, for example, is known to feed extensively on insects, while others may include birds, fish, and even other owls in their diet.

  • Snowy owls have a preference for lemmings, which are small rodents.
  • The Great Horned Owl (bubo virginianus) can take down larger mammals like raccoons, skunks, and all kinds of birds.

  • Dietary flexibility allows owls to thrive in diverse ecosystems around the world.

Owlets (Baby Owls) have a rapid growth rate

Owlets (Baby Owls) have a rapid growth rate

Young owls, or owlets, grow quickly and can reach adulthood within six to seven weeks.

  •  This rapid growth is necessary for survival, as it minimizes the time they are vulnerable to predators.

  • Parents provide constant care, feeding the owlets an abundant supply of food.

  •  This accelerated development is crucial for the species’ survival, ensuring that owlets can fend for themselves as soon as possible.

Owls contribute to controlling pest populations

Owls contribute to controlling pest populations

 

With their keen eyesight, they can prey on rodents and insects; owls play a vital role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems.

  • A single barn owl can consume about 1,000 mice annually, providing farmers with natural pest control.

Learn more barn owl facts!!!

  • This ecological service helps reduce the need for chemical pesticides, benefiting both agriculture and natural environments.

  • Encouraging owl populations through nest boxes and habitat conservation can enhance the beneficial roles of these nocturnal birds of prey.


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