Owls are known for many things—their wisdom, their nocturnal ways, their keen hunting skills—but perhaps there’s another characteristic we should be celebrating owls for: their incredible powers of expression. With their large eyes and pronounced eyebrow-like markings, owls’ faces are extremely dynamic, and the expressions they convey are surprisingly human.
It’s hard to say whether owls’ expressions are truly a reflection of their inner feelings, but their faces certainly seem to tell complex emotional stories. The owls in this gallery express surprise, joy, outrage, pure fury, purposefulness, and total confusion. They also manage to be simultaneously cute and utterly majestic.
In his 1922 paper titled “Some Remarks on the Facial Expression of Birds,” George M. Sutton wrote, “The Owls, as a group…might well form the subject of an entire paper.” In other words, owls create so many unique and subtle expressions, you could write a book about it. But that book is for someone else to write. In the meantime, we’ve put together this gallery as a celebration of owls and the incredible ways they express themselves.
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