CBC TV’s The Nature of Things is peering into “The Secret Life of Owls” for its Jan. 12 episode. They’re getting up close and personal with the great horned owl, a bird many of us may rarely, if ever, see.

So in advance of that, here are 10 reasons why owls rule.

1. The eyes have it

Owls have excellent night vision, and eyes that are 100 times stronger than those of humans. And they’re more like eye-tubes than eyeballs.

2. Poor table manners

They gulp their food, usually in one bite with no chewing. Whatever isn’t digested comes back up as a pellet.

3. They can pretty much make their own heads spin

Owls can’t move their eyes, but their heads can swivel up to 270 degrees. A pooling system provides blood to the eyes and brain when head movements cut off circulation.

owl face

A female short-eared owl. (Wild ARC)

4. Asymmetrical ears

Many owl species have ears that are different sizes and in different places on their heads. This lets them use their hearing to pinpoint the location of their prey.

5. A parliament of owls

It’s hard to find a group of owls, but if you do, they’re called a “parliament” (as is perhaps most famously seen in The Chronicles of Narnia).

6. Great eyes, but even better ears

While in flight, an owl will tip its ears to the ground to find prey. This is especially helpful given that most owls hunt at night.

Snowy Owl

A snowy owl. (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

7. Bobbing and weaving

Owls bob their heads to get a 3D view.

8. The eyes have it, part 2

Owls have a third eyelid that slides diagonally over the eye and might help protect them when they are flying through trees.

9. Not built for speed

Their feathers are made for silent flight with fringes on them to muffle wind noise. Owls use stealth rather than speed. Still, they can fly up to 65 km/h.


A great grey owl looks down from its perch. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

10. They make lousy pets

Despite what Hedwig from the Harry Potter series may lead you to believe, owls make even worse messengers than pets. They also live a long time, require fresh food daily and their talons would probably shred you.

Also read:Vampire bats developing taste for human blood – study

(Sources: CBC.ca, The Nature of Things, Audobon.org, About.com)

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