Owls are very unique birds of prey.
One thing that makes owls distinctive is their eyes, which are very large and fixed in their sockets. If we had eyes as big as owls relative to the size of our heads, we'd have eyes the size of softballs! Becasue the eyes of owls do not rotate in their sockets, they have to be able to rotate thier heads instead to see what's around them. BUT they can NOT turn their heads 360 degrees in a full circle. Owls can look all the way around behind them though, a full 180 degrees - much farther than we can turn our heads.
Owls are also known for their abilities of silent flight... Have you ever noticed that owls' wings in flight don't make a sound? Other raptors can make quite a commotion with their wings as they take off to gain flight, but the owl has something special that other birds of prey do not... Fur on their feathers. This 'fur' muffles any sound as the owl flaps its wings -- an important asset for the silent night-time hunting of the owl.
You don't have to go out after dark to look for owls! Because their eyes are specially adapted to see better at night, we could probably not see them then anyway. During the day, go to areas that would be popular hang-outs for rodents and other smallish critters... perhaps an open grove of pines... and look on the ground at the bases of trees for the owl's furry grey 'pellets'. The pellets are the regurtated remains of an owls meals -- made up mostly of fur and whole bones. If you're lucky and have sharp eyes, you might even see the owl itself, roosting in the branches above, catching a little nap -- or watching YOU!
Another way you can tell there's an owl around is by a noisy cackle of smaller birds, often crows -- seemingly all worked-up about something. Crows and songbirds will gang up and relentlessly pester an owl - hoping that eventually the owl will run out of patience and move along. Though pittiable to see an old owl, looking ancient and tired, sitting unmoving as a dozen crows kaw and kaw and swoop and dive-bomb -- until you realize their motive to chase the owl away... Owls like to raid the nests of crows and songbirds to make a meal of the baby birds.
© 1994-1999 Tara Prindle.