Throughout history, owls have represented a wide range of concepts from wisdom to death and tragedy. Cave paintings found in France that date back 15 to 20,000 years contain images of owls. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs also portray owls. Owl fossils have been discovered that date back to 79 to 80 million years ago. Owls can be found all over the world, living in a variety of habitats on every continent excluding Antarctica. There are over one hundred and fifty species of owls. Female owls are larger than males. Female owls lay their eggs every few days which means that their offspring hatch several days apart. The importance of this is that if prey is not plentiful, the older siblings will be fed first and will survive, while the younger ones will starve, weaken, or possibly be killed and eaten by their older siblings. If all the eggs hatched at the same time, it is likely that they would all be weak and potentially none would survive.
Owls lack the ability to move their eyes. Therefore, in order to look around they must move their entire head. Owls have extra vertebrate in their spine that allow them to turn their heads approximately three-quarters of the way around. The color of an owl’s eyes is an indication of what time of day it hunts. Owls with dark colored eyes hunt at night. Orange colored eyes indicate a hunting time of dawn or dusk and yellow-eyed owls hunt during the day. The fact that different species of owl hunt at different times allows them all to peacefully coexist in the same area. Owls lack both the sense of smell and the sense of taste. Don’t feel too bad for them though. The Great Horned Owl regularly makes a meal of skunk. If you dined on a skunk you probably wouldn’t want to have your sense of smell either! Owls also have other senses that are very acute. Owls’ night vision surpasses that of any other animal and its sense of hearing is also top-notch. Of all the birds, owls hear the best. Their ears are not evenly aligned and this augments their ability to receive sound. An owl is still able to capture prey even without its eyesight but if an owl’s facial disk feathers are removed or one of its ears is blocked, it is unable to catch prey. Barn owls are able to hunt in complete darkness because the smallest sound will alert them to where their prey is. Amazingly, owls can even hear animals moving beneath snow and catch them. Owls use their talons to kill their prey by crushing it. An owl then swallows its meal whole since it lacks teeth. After eating, owls later cough up a pellet of the indigestible feathers, bones and fur. Owls can be a bit lazy when it comes to the chore of nest-building. Owls don’t actually build their own nests. They seek out tree hollows or squat in other birds’ nests. Owls mate for life although owls have an innate fear of one another so it takes a lot of time and courage for owls to proceed through courtship.