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what you need to know about this bird

How to recognize an owl? What is the difference with an owl? What is the symbolism of the owl? Where does she live ? All our answers on this raptor.

Sometimes a “bird of bad omen” in popular beliefs, sometimes a symbol of wisdom, the owl is a well-known bird of prey in our gardens and forests.

Owl or owl: what’s the difference?

The owl is often confused with the owl, which is hardly surprising: the owl is a cousin of the owl. They both belong to the Strigidae family, that is to say nocturnal birds of prey.

How to distinguish them? Owls, unlike owls, have two crests on their heads, tufts of feathers on the top of their skulls. They arise in times of stress.

The owl (above), unlike the owl, has two tufts on its head. adobe-stock

Owl: physical characteristics

Owls belong to the family of Owls. Only the barn owl belongs to the family of Tytonidae.

Strigidae are raptors which live at night and which are present everywhere in the world, except in Antarctica. This family includes more than 200 species, of very different sizes (from 12 cm to 70 cm). Females are larger than males.

One of the most striking physical features of owls is their neck. Their 14 cervical vertebrae and the arrangement of their muscles allow them to turn your head 270 degrees (120 degrees in humans). They can therefore look behind them without turning their body around… On the other hand, their round eyes – black, orange or yellow in color – move little laterally. But their visual acuity is impressive. Their hearing is also exceptional and it is notably thanks to it that owls find their way at night.

On their head, feathers arranged in discs form a characteristic facial mask: rather round in Strigidae, heart-shaped in Tytonidae.

Thanks to the color of their plumage, often gray or brown, owls go unnoticed in nature. The arrangement of their wing feathers allows them to fly very quietly. Their talons are highly developed, which serves to catch and kill their prey.

What is the symbolism of the owl?

In Greek mythology, the owl is a prophetic animal, which possesses the gift of clairvoyance. She accompanies the goddess Athena and represents wisdom. In Greece, the 1 euro coins feature an owl.

In the Middle Ages, in the West, this night bird which flies silently and utters chilling cries is frightening. It is associated with the world of darkness. The owl becomes an ominous bird.

Also called Athena’s owl, the little owl lives in orchards or groves. adobe-stock

Where does the owl live?

Owls are generally sedentary birds. Throughout the world, they live in very diverse environments: forests, deserts, marshes, etc. but they generally choose temperate climates. They mainly nest in tree cavities, in holes in rocks or take up residence in abandoned nests but do not create any themselves.

During the day, when it is dozing, the owl returns to its shelter, which is generally located in a quiet place. This is why we regularly find them in church steeples…

What does the owl eat?

The owl mainly hunts at night. It locates its prey by sight and sound. The bird swoops down on its prey with its claws first, then swallows the product of its hunt, generally small mammals (rats, field mice, rabbits, voles, etc.), birds, reptiles or insects. Anything inedible is regurgitated in the form of pellets of rejection. Some species even manage to fish.

What is the cry of the owl?

Nocturnal raptors communicate with characteristic hoots (or hoots) (except the barn owl, which emits harsh, shrill sounds and hisses). Owls hoot to mark their territory or to attract mates.

Who is the owl’s predator?

The foxes and the weasels attack owls or their eggs.

But the greatest threat to owls is the disappearance of their habitat: fewer meadows, fewer hedges, fewer dilapidated dwellings in which to hide… The felling of hollow trees, the increase in road traffic and urbanization also contributes to the reduction in the number of owls.

In France, owls are protected.

The main species of owls in France:

The tawny owl (Strix aluco )

Very common in France, the tawny owl is nicknamed cat-owl. Some say that the name given to the royalist insurgents in the Vendée, the Chouans, comes from the nickname of the tawny owl.

This bird is between 38 and 42 cm long and the color of its plumage is gray, brown and beige. It lives in forests, groves or even city parks.

The tawny owl is very common in France. adobe-stock

The barn owl (Tyto alba )

The barn owl is widespread throughout the world, although only one species lives in Europe: the barn owl. It likes to nest in old buildings, barns, attics… and steeples. Its characteristic head has a mask of white feathers arranged in a heart.

Also called “White Lady”, she was sometimes nailed, in the Middle Ages, to the doors of barns to ward off bad luck.

It can make different sounds, from a harsh hiss to a hiss, to a shrill, high-pitched screech…pretty scary.

The barn owl sports a heart-shaped face mask. adobe-stock

The little owl (Athene noctua )

Also called Athena’s owl (this species symbolized the goddess of wisdom), the little owl lives in orchards or groves. Its body is rounder and smaller than its cousins. Its eyes are yellow and its plumage gray or brown. It measures approximately 25 cm.

The owl lives on agricultural land. adobe-stock

Little owl (Glaucidium passerinum )

The Owl looks a lot like the Owl (hence its name) but it is much smaller (between 15 and 20 cm). Unlike its cousin, it lives most often in the mountains, generally between 1000 and 2000 meters above sea level, in coniferous forests. She can hunt during the day.

The Owl looks a lot like the Owl, but it is much smaller. adobe-stock

Tenghalm’s Owl (Aegolius Funereus )

This owl, which measures 24 to 26 cm, prefers the mountains and the plateaus of eastern France. His large round golden eyes are surmounted by two eyebrows that give him a surprised look. It can be distinguished from the Owl by its rounder head and larger, well-defined facial discs, edged in brown or black.

The Tenghalm Owl’s large, round, golden eyes are topped with two eyebrows that give it a startled look. adobe-stock

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