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Description of Owl

With their rounded facial disk encircling their large, forward-looking eyes, owls are the most recognizable of birds. Their unique traits also include superb auditory abilities and soft feathers for silent flight. Sharp talons for catching and killing prey and powerful bills for tearing flesh complete their basic characteristics. Most owls are colored in drab shades of brown, buff, and gray, either spotted or streaked, which helps conceal them during daylight hours. Woodland owls tend to be darker, while those of open country are lighter and paler. Thus, the eastern North American race of great horned owl (Bubo virginianus virginianus) is much darker than the pale northern race (B. v. lagophonus) of interior Alaska and the Yukon.Afew smaller owls have rounded, eyelike disks on the back of their head to deter predators. Although once thought to be the nocturnal kin of hawks and eagles, owls are actually most closely related to the frogmouths and nightjars. The similarities between hawks and owls result from the evolutionary convergence of morphological features that facilitate their roles as avian hunters of live animals. The 205 species of owls are a widespread and successful group that occupies virtually all habitats on all continents, from tundra to tropics, and are even found on most oceanic islands. They range in size from the forty-gram sparrow-sized elf owl (Micrathene whitneyi) of the Southwest desert to the formidable eagle owl (Bubo bubo) of Eurasia, which may reach 0.6 meter in length and weigh forty kilograms. All the owls are placed in a single order, the Strigiformes, in which two owl families are recognized. The family Tytonidae includes sixteen species of barn (Tyto sp.), grass, and bay owls (Phodilus sp.), defined by small, dark eyes set in a narrow skull with a heart-shaped facial disk. The other 189 species are loosely grouped in the family Strigidae, all of which have rounded skulls and large, wide-set eyes in a concentric facial disk. Owls of both families arenamedfor their plumage colors or patterns (the tawny owl, Strix aluco, the black-and-white owl, Strix nigrolineata, the spectacled owl, Pulsatrix perspicillata, and the spotted owl, Strix occidentalis), habitats (the barn owl, Tyto alba, and jungle owllet, Glaucidium radiatum), size (great gray owl, Strix nebulosa, and little owl, Athene noctua), power and strength (eagle owls, Bubo sp.), presence of ear tufts (great horned, longeared, Asio otus, and short-eared owls, Asio flammeus), or for their distinctive songs (screech owls, Otus spp., saw-whet owls, Aegolius sp., and barking owl, Ninox connivens). Throughout history, owls have been alternately revered and feared. To the ancient Greeks, the solemn owl was the bird of wisdom and a companion of their warrior goddess, Athena. The Romans attached more ominous signs and portents to the ghostly cries of owls in the night. During the Middle Ages, owls were thought to be the companions of witches and the harbingers of evil and death. Many Native American tribes placed owls on a higher footing. The Arikara Plains Indians had secret owl societies, in which initiates were adorned with facial masks of owl feathers, while the Pimi Indians believed spirits of departed warriors assumed the shape of owls. Thanks to enlightened conservation efforts, owls are at long last recognized as important, interesting, and beneficial birds and all are protected by law.

Thanks for description - Animal life club

Photo Gallery of Owl