From the diminutive Northern Pygmy Owl, which weighs less than a Quarter Pounder, to the Great Horned Owl, which boasts a wingspan of over a metre, Canada is home to a dazzling variety of owls.
Those tufts aren’t ears
Nope. Those tufty bits at the top of many owls’ heads aren’t ears—they’re display feathers. An owls’ ears are hidden on the sides of its head, with one placed higher than the other. This allows an owl to precisely pinpoint where sound is coming from, making it an extremely effective nocturnal hunter.
Owls’ heads have a 270-degree range of motion
Contrary to popular lore, owls can’t turn their heads all the way around. They can, however, turn 135 degrees to either side, giving them a 270-degree range of motion—pretty impressive, when you compare it to a humans’ relatively measly 160 degrees. Owls’ eyes can’t move in their sockets, so they must move their heads in order to see. Scientists have recently discovered that owls’ vertebrae are far larger than humans’, with air sacs inside to help cushion their head while twisting.
Owls don’t have eyeballs
Owls’ eyes are more like tubes, which is why they can’t move in their sockets. Owls’ front-facing eyes give them exceptional binocular vision—both eyes seeing at the same time—which allows them to perceive depth more precisely than birds with eyes on the sides of their heads.
Owls are divided into two distinct families
Owls are divided into two very different-looking groups—barn owls, which belong to the family Tytonidae, and typical owls, which belong to the family Strigidae. Barn owls are most recognizable by their flat, heart-shaped faces and stubby tails, while typical or true owls tend to be larger and stockier, with round faces rather than heart-shaped ones. Barn owls also don’t hoot.
A group of owls is called a parliament
Owls are typically solitary—but for those times when they kick of their owly heels and throw a party, a group of them is correctly referred to as a parliament of owls. (Other interesting collective nouns include a murder of crows, a murmuration of starlings and an exaltation of larks.)
Owls have some odd relations
Although owls are considered nocturnal raptors, using their talons and beaks to grab and eat prey, they’re biologically more closely related to hummingbirds than diurnal raptors like hawks and eagles.
Owls’ feathers are designed for silent flight
Owls’ primary feathers have stiff leading edges, which reduce noise, and soft trailing edges, which reduce turbulence—both of which combine for a swift, silent flight (and completely unsuspecting prey).
Owls can’t chew
Owls have no teeth, so they can’t chew their prey. Instead, they tear their food into small bits or swallow prey whole. Owls’ digestive systems—specifically, an organ called the gizzard—digests what’s edible, and compacts what isn’t into a pellet, which gets regurgitated. Mmmm, appetizing.