The sight of an owl in Ancient Roman was deemed as an extremely unlucky occurrence; following with misfortune. According to myths, the only way to reverse the omen was to catch, burn and scatter the ashes of the owl in the Tiber River. Some validate this myth with rumors of owl cries prior to the murder of Julius Caesar.
All owls have three eyelids! The first is for blinking, the second for sleeping and the third for maintaining fluids to keep the eye clean and health.
Not only do owls hoot, they screech, whistle, hiss and bark. Depending on the age of the owl, season, nesting schedule and breeding times, owl calls vary from owl to owl. However, one common attribute is all owl calls can be heard from a mile away.
Nicknames: Great Gray Ghost, Phantom of the north, Cinerous Owl, Spectral Owl, Lapland Owl, Spruce Owl, Bearded Owl and Sooty Owl
Length: 72cm for females, 69cm for males
Wingspan: 142cm for females, 140cm for males
Weight: 1,390g for females, 1,290g for males.
Appearance: As one of the world’s largest owl species, the Great Gray Owl’s dark grey and speckled white plumage is often bulky and dense. However, it’s wide wings extend far from its body, easing in flight. The Great Gray Owls facial disk is substantially larger than most owls, making their amber eyes appear small. However, its most recognizable feature is its strip of white under the facial disk, resembling the human equivalent of a mustache.
Habitat: Great Gray Owls live across Canada, Alaska, down the Rocky Mountains and northern Europe and Asia. They prefer breeding and nesting in mixed coniferous and red forests. Most hunting is done in open clearings of these forests, next to bodies of water such as swamps and bogs as well as scatter trees with high branches to perch.
Diet: Gray Owls are able to hunt for larger mammals, however the majority of their diet is focused on small mammals such as Voles, Squirrels, Rats, Mice and others. These animals are plentiful in the habitats of Gray Owls.
Nicknames: Pygmy Owl, Rocky Mountain Pygmy Owl, Vancouver Pygmy Owl, California Pygmy Owl, and Dwarf Owl.
Length: Female: 18.5 cm, Male: 16.5 cm
Weight: Female: 73 g, Male: 62 g
Average Wing Length: 38 cm
Appearance: The Northern Pygmy Owl is one of the smallest owl species. Their bodies vary in colour between grey, brown and red. This species sports a soft plumage with white horizontal lines across its chest and belly. Their white and brown facial disk is rimmed with dark lines; paired with dark eyes and a yellow beak. Uncommon to most owls, Barred Owls have a long tail. Their feathers have no difference between female and male.
Habitat: Northern Pygmy Owls generally live in the ope coniferous and mixed forests. Their nests are built in between densely grown forests, however they use the vulnerability of open, deforested clearings for hunting. This species is typically found across West North America, starting from as north as British Columbia to as south as California.
Diet: Due to its small stature, Pygmy Owls are limited in their hunting capacity. However, they have evolved to be able to hunt prey three times its own weight. The common catches are voles, rats, mice and hares but they also accept small birds and water dwelling animals for prey.
Nicknames: Hoot Owl, Northern Barred Owl, Swamp Owl, Striped Owl, Eight Hooter, Bard Owl
Length: 17-24 inches
Weight: Average Male 617 g, Average Female 779 g
Average Wing Length: 50-55-inch
Appearance: The Barred Owl sports a gray-brown plumage with white horizontal lines across its chest and belly. Their white and brown facial disk is rimmed with dark brown, with dark brown eyes and a yellow beak. Uncommon to most owls, Barred Owls have a long tail. Their feathers have no difference between female and male.
Habitat: Barred Owls prefer to build its nests in moisture rich habitats. This includes wet forests, wooded swamps and woodlands near bodies of water. These particular expectations are mostly located in North America; spanning from as south as Florida to as north as Southern Canada. The expansion of these species are a concern in Western North America, which are primarily a habitat for the endangered Spotted Owl. Depending on food availability, this species may be forced out of the north.
Diet: Barred Owls will eat most small mammals, birds, amphibians and insects. The common catches are voles, rats, mice and hares but they also accept small birds and water dwelling animals for prey.
Nicknames: Indian Great Horned Owl, Bubi
Weight: Female 2280-4200g, Male 1620-3000g
Average Wing Length: Female 47.8cm, Male 44.8cm.
Appearance: The Eagle Owl is one of the largest owl species, with a relatively large beak and talons. It’s specialty feature are its large amber eyes; striking and haunting to predators and prey. Depending on its mood, the Eagle Owl’s ear tufts will lift and lower accordingly. It’s plumage is common as most owls with larger streaks on the sides of its breasts.
Habitat: Eagle Owls are known to build its nests in the middles of coniferous forests to warm deserts. For these owls, a diverse, rocky landscapes gives them an advantage above prey and a suitable place for nesting. Their species is distributed across North Africa, Europe, Asia (China and Korea), and the Middle East.
Diet: Eagle Owls are not picky eaters, they are hunters and will resort to eating just about anything in desperate times. From insects to mammals such as deer fawns, they will consume anything that they can use their talons to rip apart. That includes voles, rats, mice, foxes and hares. Birds for prey include crows, ducks, grouse, seabirds and other owls. In moist habitats, these owls will prey on lizards, frogs, fish and crabs.
Nicknames: Acadia Owl, Saw-Filer, Sparrow Owl and Queen Charlotte Owl.
Size: The Northern Saw-Whet Owl stands tall at 7 to 8 and a half inches, weighs 2 and a half to 3 and a half ounces, and holds a wingspan of 19 inches.
Appearance: This owl physically varies from the common owl appearance. It’s relatively small, has no ear tufts and look distorted due to an asymmetrical skull. Their facial disk is brown and white, with large, amber eyes. The interesting thing about these birds is that their plumage are feathered; as is their legs and feet.
Habitat: This particular species of owl can be found mostly in coniferous forests, in deciduous woodlands and riparian zones. Their range spans in the south of Canada, United States, New England, and central Mexico.
The Northern Pygmy owl assumes a number of different faces as its disguise. Dark marks on the back of its head are often confused by predators and other birds as false eyes. In addition to appearing attentive, the Pygmy owl can camouflage itself as a standing pine cone at the top of pines.