While many people know a little bit about these birds of prey, some facts about owls can surprise even the most experienced birders.
Owl Trivia: There are more than 150 species of owls in the world, and some counts indicate more than 220 species depending on how different owls are classified. Only 19 owl species are found in North America.
Owls are found in all different habitats and there are different owl species found on all continents except Antarctica.
All owls have upright posture and forward-facing eyes that give them binocular vision, just like humans.
Many owl species have asymmetrical ears that are different sizes and different heights on their heads. This gives the birds superior hearing and the ability to pinpoint where prey is located, even if they can't see it.
An owl's eyes are supported by bony eye sockets and they cannot turn their eyes. Instead, owls rotate their heads up to 270 degrees, but they cannot turn their heads all the way around.
An owl has three eyelids: one for blinking, one for sleeping and one for keeping the eye clean and healthy.
A barn owl can eat up to 1,000 mice each year, and many farmers try to attract barn owls to help control rodent populations in agricultural fields.
Owls are carnivorous and will eat rodents, small or medium sized mammals, reptiles, amphibians, nocturnal insects, fish and other birds. After digesting their food, owls regurgitate hard pellets of compressed bones, fur, teeth, feathers and other materials they couldn't digest. Ornithologists study those pellets to learn more about an owl's diet.
Owls have specialized feathers with fringes of varying softness the help muffle sound when they fly. Their broad wings and light bodies also make them nearly silent fliers, which helps them stalk prey more easily.
Not all owls hoot, and owls can make a wide range of other sounds, such as screeches, whistles, barks and hisses. During the nesting season, owl calls can often be heard up to a mile away.
Not all owl species are nocturnal. How often an owl is seen during the day depends on the seasonal amount of daylight and darkness, food supplies and habitat.
Most owls do not migrate but they can be nomadic in searching for the best food sources. Some species, such as the snowy owl, have regular irruptions.
A group of owls is called a parliament, wisdom or study. Baby owls are called owlets.
Owls have long been cultural symbols and they have been found in cave paintings in France, in Egyptian hieroglyphics and even in Mayan art. Today, owl superstitions associate the birds with bad luck, death and stealing souls in many cultures.
The biggest modern threats to owls are habitat loss, pesticides that poison the birds and their food supplies and human persecution because of negative superstitions.