Source: D4K: “Owls”
Visit the D4K companion Web site to learn more about Owls: D4K: “Owls”
This video segment from IdahoPTV's D4K demonstrates how an owl's eyes, face, neck and wings are all specially adapted to help this predator hunt and survive. Find out what's in an owl pellet.
Joan Cartan-Hansen: Owls are predators. This means they eat other animals.
Most owls hunt at night so their bodies are adapted to help them pursue their prey in the dark. The most obvious adaptation is an owl’s large eyes. They’re huge and they seem to fix right on you.
But did you know that owls can’t move their eyes from side to side like you do? Their eyes are always looking in the direction they’re facing. Can you imagine how you would see the world if you couldn’t glance to the side?
You’d have to hop in a circle to see who or what was next to you. But owls don’t hop in a circle. They have another adaptation that helps them to see each side and behind them. Owls have very flexible necks. This lets them turn their heads almost in a full circle. Wouldn’t it be freaky if you were able to turn your head almost all the way around?
JOAN: Owls are also adapted to hear the smallest sounds of prey moving in the dark. See how the front of an owl’s face is almost circular and slightly hollow like a bull. This shape is called a facial disk and it gathers sound around the owl’s head and into its ears.
So an owl sitting in a tree can hear its food moving even if it’s a little mouse scurrying way down low.
It’s just like one of those awesome detective toys you can use to hear your buddy from far away.
CHILD: What you got there?
JOAN: And it may just help you find food too.
CHILD: Some candy.
CHILD: I want some.
JOAN: Another adaptation that makes an owl a great hunter is how quietly it flies. An owl’s flight feathers have serrated edges like a comb. This means they aren’t smooth like most birds. These special edges break up the wind flowing over the wings letting an owl fly almost silently.
Can you see how this would help it hunt? It’s sort of like playing hide and seek. If you’re trying to sneak up on a friend you’d want to stay really quiet. Soft serrated grass can muffle the sound of feet, just like the owl’s serrated feathers muffle the wind.
But what if you’re running on hard concrete? It would be pretty difficult to surprise somebody then. If a prey animal can’t hear the owl approaching it won’t run and hide and then the owl gets to eat.
But do you know what happens to an owl every time it eats?
It throws up.
CHILD: Eewww. What does it throw up?
JOAN: An owl pellet. When an owl eats it eats the whole animal.
JOAN: Including the bones and fur. Doesn’t that sound yummy?
CHILDREN: Oh yuck.
JOAN: Owls can’t digest bones and fur so they vomit up those animal parts in the form of an owl pellet and if you carefully pull the pellet apart you can find those tiny bones.
CHILD: Oh awesome. It’s so tiny it’s ______
CHILDREN: Whoa, awesome.
CHILD: I think I’ll just _______
JOAN: In the winter owls will be courting so that’s the best time to listen for the calls of the great horned owl.
JOAN: Who knows what you might hear?
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