6 Fun Facts About Owls and Their Nightlife

Owls are one of the most popular birds worldwide. Many people know little about them or are even misinformed.

Jul 3, 2023By Kim Anisi
facts about owls and their nightlife

Did you know that there are 255 known owl species in the world? This article will teach you six interesting facts about owls you may not know yet. And you'll finally learn the truth about their nightlife that may surprise you.

1: Harry Potter's Hedwig Is a Boy

female snowy owl with chick

Harry Potter fans love Snowy Owls, but many do not know that the various owl actors who portrayed Hedwig in the movies were all male.

There are two reasons for this:

  • Female Snowy Owls aren’t pure white. They often have a multitude of black markings on them.
  • Female Snowy Owls can be nasty, especially during breeding time (even if they have no partner or lay no eggs). Male Snowies are generally easier to train and work with.

Male Snowies were the logical choice to work with, especially considering the young age of most actors in those movies. Unfortunately, Snowy Owls are now seen as a vulnerable species as their numbers are declining.

2: Owls Aren’t Easy to Train

great grey owl eyes

Following the above, it must be said that owls aren't easy to train. They aren't the most intelligent birds, even though people may think otherwise. After all, the ancient Greeks saw owls as the symbol of the Goddess Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom.

However, owls are very specialized in their skills. They do a few things very well but are much harder to train than other birds of prey.

3: Owls Don’t Need to Drink Water

snowy owl

You’ll rarely see owls drink water. This is because their bodies are efficient at using the water in the bodies of their prey. They can break down their prey’s fat (1g of fat equals 1g of water). Also, let’s not omit the fact that their victims also have blood.

Owls love bathing, though; you'll sometimes see them gulp water as they bathe. This has little to do with their thirst - it's usually to help them cool down. This is because owls don't sweat.

4: Owls Say More Than Just “Hoo-hoo”

tawny owls

You'll often hear owls making the "hoo-hoo" sound in movies, and this no matter the species. This leads many people to believe that all owls sound the same. The fact is that there is quite a variety of sounds among owls.

While there are various owls that hoot the famous "hoo-hoo" (like the Eurasian Eagle-owl), the majority do not! For example, in New Zealand, there is an owl that the Māori indigenous peoples call Morepork. The reason? Simply because its call sounds a lot like the words "more pork."

The Western Screech owl gets its imaginative name from its screeching call. They do not always screech, and in fact, have quite a melodious whistle.

Barn owls also deserve to be mentioned. They are the real screech owls and sound like something out of a horror movie. If you're out in the woods at night and hear strange voices, an owl might be the reason.

5: It’s The Talons You Need to Watch Out For

snowy owl talons

When people are introduced to owls, many are worried about being bitten. People tend to respect an owl’s beak and ignore the actual dangerous part: Their talons.

You wouldn't want a Eurasian Eagle Owl to dig their claws into you. Their talons' strength can reach up to 750 PSI (pound-force per square inch). If an owl digs their claws into you, it's a painful experience. Fortunately, it's unlikely to happen, as owl attacks aren't very common!

6: Not All Owls Are Nocturnal

western screech owl

One belief that I come across, again and again, is that people think all owls are only active at night. The famous "night owl vs. early bird" comes from that notion.

But that’s not correct. There are three different types of owl behaviors. An owl's eye color tells you which group they belong to:

  • Owls with dark, brown eyes are the nocturnal ones, i.e., mainly active at night. Examples of this group are barn owls and tawny owls.
  • Owls with orange eyes are active during dusk and dawn. Examples include Eagle owls and white-faced scops owls.
  • Owls with yellow eyes are active during the day. Examples include Snowy Owls and Western Screech Owls.

Of course, there can be exceptions to the rule. A hungry barn owl will come out earlier in the day in order to go hunting. You can sometimes see them sitting on fence posts along farmers’ fields, hoping to catch a field mouse.

Some Final Thoughts About Owls

eurasian eagle owl

Owls come in all sizes and colors. Some owl species have little in common with others; some big owls even eat smaller owls. The more you learn, the more fascinating you’ll find the world of owls.

A good way to learn more fun facts about owls is to find a local bird rescue or animal sanctuary that allows visitors. You may even be able to volunteer for them. Some falconries also have owls and offer their visitors unique experiences and education. Another excellent resource for reliable information about owls is the Owl Research Institute. They regularly offer volunteer opportunities in addition to a wealth of owl knowledge.

Kim Anisi
By Kim Anisi

Kim currently works with birds of prey, dogs, cats, and some horses in Scotland. Her other big love is gulls, ravens, and chickens – which started during her time as a bird rescue volunteer in New Zealand. You'll often find her stalking animals with a camera, or walking dogs, including Ivory, her Golden Retriever.