Let’s all give a hoot for owls, those silently flying big-eyed birds ‘hoo” survive and thrive on six of the Earth’s seven continents, plus Hogwarts.
Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is one of the largest owls in the Americas, surpassed only by its close relative the Snowy Owl. Also known as the Tiger Owl or the Hoot Owl, this iconic bird of prey is renowned for its large and powerful talons. A large female Great Horned Owl may have a “foot span” of roughly 8 inches or 20 cm, and its gripping power is on par with the fearsome Golden Eagle. (images at top via Cape Hatteras National Seashore and above via James Mann)
* Amazing Owl Fact: Great Horned Owls’ “great horns” are actually tufts of feathers called plumicorns. Experts aren’t exactly certain what purpose these plumicorns serve, although most agree they come into play during territorial disputes and courting interactions.
At the opposite end of the size spectrum, the insectivorous Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi) is the world’s smallest and lightest owl. How small? Think sparrow-sized. How light? How does 40 grams (under 1.5 oz) each strike you? Elf Owls are also migratory: large flocks move north from central Mexico each spring to their preferred feeding and breeding grounds in several southwestern American states. (image via Dominic Sherony)
* Amazing Owl Fact: Elf Owls will often “play possum” when caught by a predator, then flying away once the attacker relaxes their grip.
The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is the largest owl in North America, with females usually being larger than males. A Snowy Owl’s wingspan can stretch up to 57 inches or 145 cm – as wide as the average man is tall. Snowy Owls have evolved to meet the challenges of living in frigid arctic climes.
Their feathers are thickly layered over their bodies, and even cover their feet. Snowy Owls primarily prey on lemmings, who apparently have something else to worry about besides blindly following one another off the nearest steep cliff. (images via GoldenBright (Larry) and Tony Hisgett)
* Amazing Owl Fact: Unlike most other owls, Snowy Owls hunt in daylight when the summer sun never sets in far northern lands above the arctic circle.
Owls may be wise but even they need doctors sometimes. Check out Art Of The Heal: Macabre Murals Of The Jain Bird Hospital to find out more!