Superb Owls 2017: Even More Excellent Fowl Facts

This Philippine Eagle Owl (Bubo Philippensis) is ready for the Superb Owl. REUTERS/John Javellana

In 2015 we published our first roundup of the finest superb owls, and here's what we learned: The world loves owls almost as much as the Super Bowl. (Well, kinda—we're still waiting for hundreds of millions of ad dollars to pour in.) While some may not appreciate the New England Patriots and their tiresome domination of the league, or the Atlanta Falcons and their lesser avian mascots, everybody can find something to love about owls.

These hollow-boned birds of the night engender a fascination that is hard to explain. Maybe it's their big eyes and seemingly expressive faces, which often seem bemused, cross or even hung over. Or the fact that they are fearsome predators that hunt by the faint light of the heavens, active in the wee hours when only rapscallions and bakers are awake. Whatever it is, the birds themselves, and the way they're woven into cultures throughout the world, are pretty great.

Without further ado, here the nine most superb owl-related facts or happenings of recent memory (And yes I realize some of these aren't owls per se; for that, check out our last list.)

Barn Owl Babies Are Ravenous

Barn owls can easily have seven baby owls (owlets) each of which can eat five mice or voles per night. That's a lot of interceptions! This fact is brought to you via a funny video by YouTube Channel It's Okay To Be Smart called, well, The Superb Owl. I should've copyrighted this thing when I first thought of it years ago.

Here's even more information from the Alabama Wildbird Conservation Association: "For the first two weeks of age owlets eat two to four [voles] per night. At three to five weeks of age they will consume five to 10 per night, per owlet! They will continue to consume about 10 voles per night until they are about ten weeks old, when the parents begin to slow down on the amount of food offered. This encourages the young to leave the nest to search for the parents, drop in weight, and eventually hunt for themselves at about 12 weeks of age."

Nocturnal? #NotAllOwls

While most of owl-kind are active and hunt at night, some prefer the day. Don't discriminate! As LiveScience points out, the northern pygmy owl and northern hawk owl love to snack on small birds, and thus are more active during the day when these animals are afoot (a-wing?). It's also not uncommon to spot snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus) or burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) during the day.

Have Owls Kidnapped Football Coach Lane Kiffin?

Human being Lane Kiffin has done a lot of stuff in football, namely coaching the Oakland Raiders, the University of Tennessee Volunteers, the USC Trojans and most recently being the offensive coordinator for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. But ol' Kiff is apparently tired of mascots that are human and/or maritime in nature. In December he flew to coop to be the head coach for Florida Atlantic University Owls, whose mascots is—wait for it—Owlsley the Owl—who is almost certainly, not, but should be named after legendary LSD cook Owsley Stanley.

The reason I'm bringing Kiffin up is because he just released a viral video in which he may or not have been kidnapped and forced to pretend he's enthusiastic about coaching the Owls. Just watch.

After watching this I'm not 100% sure if Lane Kiffin isn't being held hostage at FAU

— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) January 31, 2017

Owls Without Feathers Are Wild

Twitter user and author Dana Schwartz recently tweeted a picture of an owl without feathers. The results are frightening (thanks for the shock, Dana!). Luckily, owls have thick feathers that allow them to fly (duh) and are very quiet. The study of these feathers has already helped pave the way for advancements in less noisy human aircraft.

I just googled what owls look like without feathers and I am severely shook

— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) January 8, 2017

Owl Burrito

OK, this isn't an actual burrito, and Please Don't Eat Owls. The folks at the Raptor Center Clinic at the University of Minnesota melted our collective hearts a while back when they posted photos of a little saw-whet owl all bundled up in a blanket. But it wasn't for nefarious purposes. Vets do this to weigh the owl and keep it immobilized; in this case, the bird had fractured its pelvis.

This little saw-whet owl was wrapped up to be weighed and cared for after breaking a bone. Raptor Center Clinic at the University of Minnesota

Owl Has a Swim

You might've seen this, if you're on the owl-beat, but maybe you haven't! Below is a video of a great horned owl swimming in Lake Michigan. Jeremiah Trimble, Harvard's Collection Manager for the Ornithology Department, tells Audubon that this is a rare site. He believes the owl ended up in the water after being chased by falcons. Luckily, owls can swim, albeit not very well.

Owl Monkeys

Confession: These aren't owls. But they are named after them. These animals, which are also called night monkeys and live in Panama and South America, actually mate for life, and research has shown that they are truly monogamous, which is very rare in the animal kingdom. Both parents also take care of the young (which is also the case in some owls). Awww.

Transcendent Burrowers

I mentioned burrowing owls last time, how they eat ground squirrels and steal their homes, before stuffing them with dung to attract delicious insects. However, it's worth noting that these birds live in the southwestern United States, and are more than capable of tunneling under any border walls. Like all animals, they don't recognize national boundaries. Unfortunately, hundreds of species are likely to be harmed by such a project.

A burrowing owl in Florida. Dori via Wikimedia Commons CC3.0

Lakshmi's Owl

Owls occupy a diverse but mostly dark place in human mythology. In many cultures, they represent bad omens or spirits of the dead. However, they can also represent wisdom. Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, is thought to sometimes take the form of an owl. The bird serves as a symbolic reminder that wealth can isolate one and blind them to others' misfortune (as the night blinds the eye)—thus the wise person doesn't let this occur, and uses their wealth for the good of others. That's something we can call get behind.

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