The owl is a magnificent bird of prey often associated with wisdom and knowledge. They are a nocturnal bird with forward facing eyes that give them better depth perception for night hunting. Owls are far sighted and unable to see anything within a few inches of their face. They have excellent far vision enabling them to see great distances even in low light. Flying high, gracefully and virtually silently, makes it difficult for its prey to flee from their claws. The diet of the owl consists mainly of rodents and insects and their coloring allows them to blend into their surroundings. Barn owls have been known to swallow their prey whole devouring all parts of its catch, including bones. Unlike other species of owls, the barn owls make a screeching sound rather than the typical hoot sound associated with other owls.
There are over 200 species of owls and they have habitats all over the world except Antarctica. The smallest owl is the “elf owl” weighing just over an ounce and measuring in at 5 1/4 inches long while the largest owls are “eagle owls” which can have a wing span of just over 6 feet. The owl uses its powerful talons to crush the skull of its prey and knead its body. Its curved beak makes short work of gripping and tearing its capture. Owls have many capabilities but building nests are not one of their best traits and will often claim nest left behind by hawks, crows and other birds.
Owls can lay as many as 10 eggs at a time and they are laid on different days, hatching about 3 to 5 weeks later in the order in which they were laid. This can often result in the first owlet being 2 or more weeks older than the last one to hatch.
The owl is also seen as a spirit animal and holds many different meanings for different cultures and religions. There is no shortage of owl lore and mythology.
In the Navajo and Apache tribes owl sightings are taken very seriously. They are sometimes seen as a sign of death and it is believed that if the spirit owl speaks your name it is a sure sign that your life on earth will soon come to an end.
In Greek mythology, Athena was the goddess of war, handicraft and practical reason. It was said that an owl sat on her blind side so she could see the whole truth. The owl was her sacred animal. When soldiers saw an owl flying over the battlefield they saw it as a sign that the goddess of war was smiling down upon them and encouraged them to go forth in battle.
Egyptian mythology saw the owl as the creature guarding the souls of the dead as they pass to the next level. It was also thought by them to be a guardian of sacred occult knowledge.
Chinese folklore suggest the owl is a source of good luck and wisdom. Owl figures and images are popular in Chinese culture and are depicted on ceramics from the Han Dynasty.
No matter what the spiritual meanings hold for different cultures, the one fact that runs through all cultures is that the owl is seen to hold ultimate wisdom. They contribute to the eco system by controlling insect and rodent populations and hold a special fascination for bird watchers and there are many collectors of owl carvings, figures and photos.