OWLS

Owls and barn owls are birds of prey;that are related to eagles and hawks (both are classified into the taxonomic superorder "Neognathae").
 
Owls and barn owls are in a different taxonomic order to eagles, hawks and other birds of prey. They belong to the order "Strigiformes".
    
Families: 2

Species: 194

Examples: Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Southern Boobook, Pygmy Owl

Distribution: Widespread throughout the world except Antarctica, a large part of Greenland and some isolated islands.
Anatomy: Large forward-facing eyes, ear-holes, strong talons and sharp clutching claws. They have a flat face and a feathered facial disc around their eyes. They have 14 vertebrates in their neck which aids its rotation to 270 degrees. Owls have zygodactyl feet – 2 toes pointing forwards and 2 toes pointing backwards. Some owls have asymmetrical ears to find out where the sound is coming from. They have 3 eyelids for specific functions.

Diet: Carnivores. They feed mostly on small live mammals (i.e. rodents), fish, oscines (song birds) and insects.  Owls may swallow the entire animal if it is small; otherwise, they will tear the animal with their bill, digest the soft flesh and expel the rest (i.e. bones, feathers) in the form of pellets.

Behaviour: Mainly night hunters or appear at dawn and dusk (crepuscular hunters); day hunters may include species from the far north, where nights are shorter, or during breeding season. They have very good hearing and communicate by call. Owls have binocular vision, great amount of photoreceptors (to allow good low light vision) and are farsighted; however, they will often rotate their head for a better view. They may be migrants, partial migrants or non-migrants. In most cases, females are larger, more coloured and more aggressive than males. Their sound calls differ among different species and include hooting, screeching, whistling hissing or barking.

Breeding: Owls generally nest in tree cavities but may also be found nesting in burrows, under rocky overhangs or they may even take over unused crows or hawks nests. They can lay approximately from 3 to 12 eggs, where each eggs hatches at its own time. Incubation period may take up to 2 months. Once hatched, both parents feed their young.

Main predators: Owls are top carnivores so do not normally have predators, however, some eagles, larger owls, the arctic fox (which may prey on the snowy owl), coyotes (which may attack owls while they are feeding on the ground) or certain snakes (i.e. can attack owl eggs) may be included among the owls possible predators.

Human interaction: Threats to owls include habitat loss, poisonous pesticides that kill their food, and their killing due to traditional beliefs, such as “bad luck”. Owls are also used as a natural pest control to reduce rodent population (i.e. in agricultural fields, farmers use barn owls for this purpose).

Interesting facts: Barn owls can catch their prey in total darkness. Groups of owls may be called “parliament” or “wisdom”, among the most known.