Birdorable Eurasian Eagle-Owl

Eurasian Eagle-Owl

As part of our continuing series on bird myths, today we unravel the truth behind a familiar claim: Owls Can Turn Their Heads 360 Degrees. While this statement stretches the truth by nearly 100 degrees, the reality is no less astonishing. Owls are indeed masters of neck gymnastics, possessing the ability to rotate their heads up to an impressive 270 degrees, which is 3/4 of the way around. This incredible feat of flexibility is no party trick -- it serves a critical role in the survival and hunting strategies of these nocturnal raptors.

The myth of 360-degree neck swivels is rooted in what humans can observe in owls. One can imagine that seeing an owl look directly behind themselves without turning their body might lead someone to believe that owls can actually turn their heads all the way around. But careful observation will reveal the truth -- the bird must turn its head back the way it came to turn back forwards.

But how can owls turn their heads so far, and why do they have this adaptation? Owls have fixed eye sockets, meaning they cannot move their eyes within their skulls in order to look around, as humans and many other animals do. Instead, nature has equipped them with a highly flexible neck, allowing them to swivel their heads extensively in order to look around them. This unique adaptation enables owls to have a wide field of vision, essentially giving them the ability to observe their surroundings in almost every direction, without the need to move their entire body. This capability is crucial for spotting potential prey or identifying threats in their environment, particularly during the night, when visibility is low and owl vision excels.

Snowy Owl photo

Snowy Owl

The anatomical secret behind an owl's remarkable head rotation lies in the owl's neck bones. Unlike humans, who have seven cervical vertebrae, owls are endowed with 14, providing the additional flexibility to turn the neck so far around. Moreover, owl neck arteries have special adaptations to prevent blood flow from being cut off or causing damage during extreme rotations. This includes a system of blood vessels that ensures continuous blood supply to the brain and eyes when the main pathways are pinched during rotation.

This 270-degree rotational ability enhances the owl's silent hunting prowess. By minimizing movement, owls can stealthily observe and target their prey, maintaining an element of surprise. Their silent flight, combined with this panoramic vision, makes them formidable predators of the night, capable of detecting and swooping down on unsuspecting prey with remarkable precision.

Understanding the truth behind the owl's head rotation demystifies one of the many fascinating adaptations in the avian world, highlighting the complexity and beauty of nature's designs. It's a great example of the evolutionary marvels that allow birds, like the owl, to thrive in their specific niches, perfectly adapted to their ways of life.

Eurasian Pygmy Owl photo

Eurasian Pygmy Owl

Birdorable Owl Gifts

Birdorable Burrowing Owl in hole

Many countries have an official national bird. For example, the national bird of Belgium is the Common Kestrel, and the national bird of Israel is the Hoopoe. All U.S. states also have official birds. But did you know that there are even some cities that have their own official bird?

Burrowing Owl in Florida by Pete Markham (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Cape Coral, Florida, a city celebrated for its picturesque canals and vibrant wildlife, is home to a particularly charming and quirky resident: the Burrowing Owl. This pint-sized owl has not only captivated the hearts of locals and visitors alike but has also earned the distinguished title of the official city bird. The Burrowing Owl's unique lifestyle, adorable appearance, and the conservation efforts surrounding it make for a fun story that intertwines the natural world with community pride.

Unlike most owls who are known for their nocturnal habits and preference for dense forests, the Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) stands out for its diurnal (daytime) activity patterns and unusual habitat choice. As the name implies, these owls are ground-dwellers, favoring open, treeless areas where they make their homes in burrows. These burrows are not only a place of residence but also serve as protection against predators and extreme weather conditions. This adaptation to burrow living is a remarkable trait that sets the Burrowing Owl apart from its avian relatives.

Measuring about 7.5 to 11 inches in length, the Burrowing Owl is easily recognizable by its long legs, round head, and big, bright eyes. Their presence adds a unique charm to the landscapes of Cape Coral, where they can be found standing at the entrance to their burrows or perched on nearby posts during the day.

The Burrowing Owl diet mainly consists of insects, small mammals, and occasionally small reptiles and amphibians, playing a crucial role in controlling local pest populations.

Photo of Burrowing Owls in Cape Coral, Florida

Burrowing Owls in Cape Coral, Florida

Cape Coral's designation of the Burrowing Owl as its official city bird shows the community's awareness and commitment to wildlife conservation. The city boasts one of the largest populations of Burrowing Owls in Florida, thanks in part to the efforts of local conservation groups, city ordinances protecting the birds, and educational programs aimed at raising awareness about their habitat requirements and threats.

The challenges facing the Burrowing Owl are not insignificant. Habitat loss due to development, pesticide use, and human disturbance are ongoing threats to their population. However, Cape Coral has implemented several measures to protect these birds. These include creating protected nesting sites, enforcing regulations that prohibit the destruction of burrows, and organizing an annual Burrowing Owl Festival to celebrate and raise funds for their conservation. These efforts highlight the importance of community involvement in preserving natural habitats and the species that depend on them.

The Burrowing Owl's status as the official city bird of Cape Coral encourages residents and visitors to engage with nature respectfully and responsibly. Moreover, it underscores the importance of urban areas in contributing to the conservation of species and the health of ecosystems.

Birdorable Burrowing Owl in hole

Cape Coral Burrowing Owl Gifts from Birdorable

See the perfect blend of style and nature with our original Birdorable Cape Coral Florida design available on different apparel styles from Amazon and Zazzle. A fun bird-themed addition to any wardrobe, this graphic design features our cute Birdorable Burrowing Owl with vibrant orange and green lettering that spells out "CAPE CORAL FLORIDA," celebrating the city's affinity with these charming birds. Choose from a variety of apparel styles, colors, and sizes to find your perfect fit. Whether you're a local resident, a visitor who has fallen in love with the area's wildlife, or a birding enthusiast, this design is a fun way to show your appreciation for Cape Coral's natural beauty.

2023 Bonanza Bird #1

Exploring the World of the Flammulated Owl with Birdorable

Birdorable Flammulated Owl

Welcome to our 2023 Birdorable Bonanza! For the next 10 days we'll reveal a new cute bird that will join our big Birdorable flock! Today the Flammulated Owl kicks off our celebration.

The tiny Flammulated Owl, with its unique flame-like markings, might just be one of the forest's best-kept secrets!

The Flammulated Owl gets its intriguing name from its reddish-brown feathers that have flame-like patterns. This special coloring makes them experts at camouflage, blending seamlessly into the bark of pine trees. Living in the dense forest, these owls are like little guardians who watch over the trees under the cloak of night.

As night falls, these small yet mighty birds become active. Their big, round eyes are perfect for their nocturnal lifestyle. Just like a superhero with night vision, these owls can spot their prey in the dark with incredible accuracy. And what’s on their menu? Insects! Moths, beetles, and crickets are their favorites. With their silent flight, they swoop down and catch these insects mid-air, keeping the forest ecosystem balanced.

But don’t let their size fool you. Measuring only about the size of a soda can, Flammulated Owls may be small, but they play a vital role in their habitat. They're not just skilled hunters but also crucial for controlling insect populations, which is essential for a healthy forest. One of their favorite foods is butterflies; moths are also favored.

Find Birdorable Flammulated Owl apparel and gift items on Amazon:

Cute Flammulated Owl gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

Get ready to meet our feathered mystery for tomorrow! This South African beauty is a visual delight with its vibrant plumage. Its unique name is derived from its distinctive call, which resonates through its habitat, which includes fynbos and scrubby vegetation. Can you guess what bird it might be?

2020 Bonanza Bird #22

A Closer Look at the Crested Owl: The Owl with Elegant White Crests

Birdorable Crested Owl

Today’s new species is a very special type of owl with a unique look. The Crested Owl, as the name suggests, is known for the striking long white head crests that adorn its crown. These crests extend upward from what appear to be white "eyebrows," creating an appearance that is both regal and enigmatic. This medium-sized owl is native to the lush wet forests of Central America and South America, where it finds its ideal habitat.

Crested Owls are strictly nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active during the cover of night. Unlike many migratory birds, these owls are year-round residents in their preferred territories. They are known to be highly territorial and tend to stay within their established ranges throughout the year.

Intriguingly, Crested Owls have earned their place in the ecosystem as skilled predators of small vertebrates and insects. Their diet primarily consists of creatures like rodents, frogs, and various invertebrates. With keen night vision and sharp talons, they are well-equipped for hunting in the darkness. These owls use their stealth and precision to swoop down upon unsuspecting prey, making them efficient hunters in their forest domains.

It's worth noting that the Crested Owl displays two primary color morphs. Our Birdorable illustration represents the dark morph of the species. The dark morph typically exhibits rich brown and black plumage, which adds to the owl's mystique. The other color morph, known as the light morph, features lighter plumage but retains the distinctive crests and overall elegance.

Crested Owl
Lophostrix cristata by Joao Quental (CC BY 2.0)

Next time you find yourself wandering through the enchanting rainforests of Central or South America, keep an ear out for the soft hoots of the Crested Owl, and you might just catch a glimpse of this majestic nocturnal hunter.

Tomorrow's new bird is a spotted Old World woodpecker, smaller than its Great cousin. Surely you can guess the species with this easy clue!?

Cute Crested Owl Gifts

Birdorable owls

Celebrate owls with us on this #InternationalOwlAwarenessDay! This commemorative holiday is meant to raise awareness and spread knowledge of all of the birds in the owl family.

Did you know that there are over 220 recognized species of owl in the world? The smallest owl is the Elf Owl of North America; the largest owls are the Eurasian Eagle-owl and the closely related Blakiston's Fish Owl. You can find two of these species among our Birdorable collection of 13 owls.

Happy International Owl Awareness Day! What is your favorite species of owl?

Cute Birdorable Owl Gifts

Birdorable I Dig Burrowing Owls design on Amazon t-shirt

Pick up our cute I Dig Burrowing Owls t-shirt from Amazon. The unique gift idea for bird lovers is available in Kelly Green or Lemon on shirts in sizes for men, women, and youth.

For the last 25 days we have been unveiling a new bird here and on our Facebook page every day until Christmas. Today's final bird in our Birdorable Bonanza: Advent Edition is the Elf Owl!

Birdorable Elf Owl

Elf Owls are tiny owls native to parts of Mexico and the southwestern United States. They are the world's lightest owls among the smallest. These little cuties are cavity nesters, using old woodpecker holes excavated in hardwood trees or saguaro cactus.

Despite their size, Elf Owls are still fierce birds of prey, hunting for all of their meals. They feed on a variety of insets as well as small lizards, snakes, and even infant mammals like baby rats.

Some Elf Owls migrate, while others are year-round residents. Birds that breed in the southwestern United States fly south for the winter. Birds that live in Baja California are non-migratory permanent residents in their territory.

Elf Owl
Photo by BBODO

Owls Have Amazing Eyes

Birdorable Owls Portrait

Owl eyes are pretty amazing.

They don't really have eye "balls" like humans and other animals. Instead, owl eyes tend to be more tube-shaped. Their elongated eyes are held in place by bones in the skull. Owl eyes are also relatively enormous when compared with human eyes. If a Great Horned Owl were the same size as a human, its eyes would be as large as a pair of oranges. In some owl species, the weight of the eyes accounts for up to five percent of the total weight of the bird.

Because of the shape of an owl's eyes, the bird is unable to move the eyes inside their head. They have to turn their heads around in order to look around. An owl can turn its head about 270 degrees, or about 3/4 of the way around. There are some special adaptations in owl anatomy that allow them to turn their heads so far, including extra vertebrae in the neck, and different blood vessels that keep blood flowing between the head and body.

Unlike many other bird species, owls have forward-facing eyes. This makes them appear more human-like than other birds and may contribute to their general popularity among people. Compare the forward-facing eyes on the Great Grey Owl's face to that of the American Bittern below.

and you are sure about that ?

Great Grey Owl by Rolf B. [CC BY-SA 2.0]

American Bittern by Amy Evenstad for Birdorable

Many owl species are nocturnal, but owls can see perfectly fine in the daylight as well as at night. Because of their excellent night vision, their pupils don't retract as much as in humans. Closing their eyelids halfway or more helps keep the bright light from hurting their eyes. This also gives owls the appearance of being sleepy in daylight, when in fact they may be fully awake and alert.

Owls have three sets of eyelids. Upper and lower eyelids close when the owl blinks or sleeps. A third, semi-transparent lid, called a nictitating membrane, closes diagonally across the eye. This thin layer of tissue is used to keep the eyes clean and to protect the eye while still allowing for some vision. You can see this membrane partially closed in the photo of a Barred Owl below.

Nictitating Membrane

Barred Owl with nictitating membrane visible by Philo Nordlund [CC BY 2.0]

Are you looking for a fun and easy things for guests to do at your nature center? Our cute Birdorable bird coloring pages can be the basis for a fun and free activity. We have over 100 different coloring pages available -- and they are all free to download.

We found some of our Eastern Screech Owl pages being put to good use during a recent visit to the Green Cay Nature Center in south Florida. Green Cay has a gorgeous little animal ambassador named Oliver. Oliver is unreleaseable due to injuries he sustained in a collision with a car. In addition to cute souvenir t-shirts bearing Oliver's image, the nature center was offering coloring pages featuring our cute Birdorable version of the Eastern Screech Owl. Here's a photo of Oliver on his perch, surrounded by completed coloring page masterpieces from visiting children.

Eastern Screech Owl Coloring Pages at Green Cay Nature Center

Check out all of our coloring pages here: Free Birdorable Coloring Pages

Today we've added our 600th Birdorable bird: the Tawny Owl!

Cartoon Birdorable Tawny Owl

The Tawny Owl is the most widespread species of owl across Europe. Tawny Owls are also found in western parts of Asia and northern Africa.

Tawny Owls are recognized by their tawny brown striped body plumage, large round heads which lack ear-tufts, and oversized brown eyes.

The Tawny Owl is primarily nocturnal, hunting prey items like small mammals and large insects. They prefer wooded habitat. They have adapted well to human development and will also inhabit parks and gardens.

The Tawny Owl joins Birdorable today as our 600th species! With the Tawny Owl, we now have 127 species found in Europe and 12 total species of owl in the Birdorable family.

Cute Tawny Owl Gifts