OWLS evoke extreme feelings. Their creepy hoot can send a shudder through the spine, their haunting gaze can engage our sense of wonder.

Interesting Facts

Owls cannot move their eyes because they are so large there is no more room in the skull for muscles & ligaments.

To look around, therefore, owls have to move their entire head, which they can turn 270 degrees. This is possible because owls have 14 vertebrae in their spine, twice as many as a giraffe (or human).

The color of the pupils of the eyes of owls indicates the time they hunt. An owl with very dark eyes is normally active at night (nocturnal), an owl with yellow eyes is active during the day (diurnal), and an owl with orange eyes is active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular).

The ears of owls are not aligned evenly; one is higher than the other, so their sense of hearing is three-dimensionally enhanced.

Great horned owls are the only animal that feeds on skunks with regularity, which is how we know they do not have a sense of smell. 🙂

Owls are mostly solitary but a group of owls is called a “parliament”; currently the elders seem to be perched on a ‘fiscal cliff.’ 😦

Barn Owl

(Tyto alba)

barn owlbarn owlbarn owl

Myths & Superstitions

Algeria: place the right eye of an Eagle Owl in the hand of a sleeping woman and she will tell all.

Arabia: the Owl is a bird of ill omen, the embodiment of evil spirits that carry off children at night.

Australia: Aborigines believe bats represent the souls of men and Owls the souls of women. Owls are therefore sacred, because your sister is an Owl – and the Owl is your sister.

Ethiopia: a man condemned to death was taken to a table on which an Owl was painted, and then expected to take his own life

France: when a pregnant woman hears an Owl it is an omen that her child will be a girl.

Germany: if an Owl hoots as a child is born, the infant will have an unhappy life.

India: Seizures in children could be treated with a broth made from Owl eyes. Rheumatism pain was treated with a gel made from Owl meat. Owl meat could also be eaten as a natural aphrodisiac. In northern India, if one ate the eyes of an Owl, they would be able to see in the dark. In southern India, the cries of an Owl were interpreted by number: One hoot was an omen of impending death; two meant success in anything that would be started soon after; three represented a woman being married into the family; four indicated a disturbance; five denoted coming travel; six meant guests were on the way; seven was a sign of mental distress; eight foretold sudden death; and nine symbolized good fortune.

Ireland: An Owl that enters the house must be killed at once, for if it flies away it will take the luck of the house with it.

Israel: in Hebrew lore the Owl represents blindness and desolation and is unclean.

Jamaica: to ward off the Owl’s bad luck, cry “Salt and pepper for your mammy”.

Lorraine: spinsters go to the woods and call to the Owl to help them find a husband.

Malaya: Owls eat new-born babies.

Middle East: the owl is linked with destruction, ruin and death. They are believed to represents the souls of people who have died un-avenged. Seeing an owl on the way to battle foretells a bloody battle with many deaths and casualties. Seeing an owl at somebody’s house predicts their death. Seeing an owl in your sleep is fine as long as you don’t hear it’s voice. An Owl’s sound forecasts a bad day.

Mongolia, Inner: Owls enter the house by night to gather human fingernails.

Morocco: the cry of Owls can kill infants. According to Moroccan custom, an Owl’s eye worn on a string around the neck was an effective talisman to avert the “evil eye.”

Poland: Polish folklore links Owls with death. Girls who die unmarried turn into doves; girls who are married when they die turn into Owls.

Russia: hunters carry Owl claws so that, if they are killed, their souls can use them to climb up to Heaven.

Spain: legend has it that the Owl was once the sweetest of singers, until it saw Jesus crucified. Ever since it has shunned daylight and only repeats the words ‘cruz, cruz’ (‘cross, cross’).

Transylvania: farmers used to scare away Owls by walking round their fields naked.

U.S.A: if you hear an Owl-cry you must return the call, or else take off an item of clothing and put it on again inside-out.

Louisiana: Owls are old people and should be respected.

Louisiana Cajuns (individuals who share the French-based culture originally brought to Louisiana by exiles from the French colony of Acadia in the 18th century) thought you should get up from bed and turn your left shoe upside down to avert disaster, if you hear an Owl calling late at night.

Illinois: kill an Owl and revenge will be visited upon your family.

New Mexico: the hooting of Owls warns of the coming of witches.

Wales: an Owl heard among houses means an unmarried girl has lost her virginity.

Great Horned Owl

(Bubo virginianus)

great horned owlgreat horned owlgreat horned owlgreat horned owlgreat horned owlgreat horned owl

Western Screech-Owl

(Otus kennicottii)

owl

🙂 🙂 🙂

8 thoughts on “What a Hoot!

  1. Ooops … We’re luck enough to live in an area of Central Florida where we can hear the local owls hoot all night. We’ve seen them up close and personal on early AM walks … when an owl leaves a tree branch, there’s nothing more silent … their wings absorb the wind instead of pushing it around. Magnificient birds and magnificent photography. Thanks for sharing it.

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    • Remember, Richard, owls eat babies and collect human fingernails. And since you live in Florida, “if you hear an Owl-cry you must return the call, or else take off an item of clothing and put it on again inside-out.” 🙂

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  2. Too spectacular, wholy thrilling photographs. I could hardly bear reading the stuff of legend but I did, thanks for including it. The wonder is all the expression you caught in your owls, every one of them in a unique mood and pose, this was an enormous treat. I’ve heard & seen owls everywhere, including one that flew into my old carriage house in Brooklyn and stayed a morning. If they brought anything other than joy I never blamed them. One culture to add to your list: Brooklyn: Owls are astounding, ancient, mythic. and messengers of important life-altering change. (All my neighbors were impressed and only half believed me). Thanks for this incredible display from YOUR wings.

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