Owl Heads are Remarkable

08/08/2011

One of my favorite posts of all time here on Animal Oddities is about the "transformer owl" that can radically change the look and shape of its body.  It's pretty stunning.  This post is specifically about owl heads and the odd things they can do.

You might have heard the old wives' tale that owls can turn their heads 360 degrees, fully all the way around.  Obviously that's not possible--otherwise their heads would fall off--but it is true that owls can turn their heads in remarkable and very odd-looking ways.

Owl Rhys Asplundh FLICKR
Owls have many fascinating adaptations, including the ability to turn their heads 270 degrees.

Owls can turn their heads a stunning 270 degrees (humans can only go about 180 degrees) and are able to look completey over each shoulder.  This comes in handy when watching out for predators that are trying to sneak up behind you.  You might not know that many large owl species such as great horned owls regularly feed on smaller owl species such as screech owls, so for an owl, being able to look completely over your shoulder is a good thing.

Owls also have an uncanny ability to keep their head stable.  This is extremely helpful when you are a predator sitting on a swaying tree branch trying to pinpoint the exact location of prey, both via eyesight and hearing (owls have such good hearing that they can locate prey that's hidden underneath leaf litter, thick snow or even in complete darkness with no visual cue whatsoever). 

This video shows the bizarre head stablizing ability possesed by owls.

 

Find out more about these amazing predators with Animal Planet's Interactive Guide to Owls

Help owls by symbolically adopting a barn owl, great horned owl, snowy owl or a great gray owl with the National Wildlife Federation.

Photo by Rhys Asplundh via Flickr Creative Commons. 


David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Meet David >
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