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Eagle owlEagle owlThough they are also hunting birds with strong beaks and talons, owls are a completely separate group to the birds of prey. Owls have flat faces with forward-facing eyes. There are 260 different species of owl. Most, but not all, are nocturnal, flying and hunting during the night while resting during the day. Unlike birds of prey, owls have forward-facing eyes. This gives them binocular vision, like humans, enabling them to have a good perception of depth. Their disc-like faces “collect” sound and direct it towards the ears, giving them exceptional hearing to locate their prey. Their feathers are soft, allowing them to fly almost completely silently, taking their prey by surprise. Using their superb eyesight and hearing, owls swoop down on their victims, seizing them in their razor-sharp talons.

Great grey owl in flightGreat grey owl in flight


An owl’s talons (claws) are needle-sharp—perfect for grabbing and killing its prey. A mouse or vole can be plucked from the ground and carried away easily. Owls have four toes. When they are flying, three of the toes face forwards, and one faces backwards. When they are clutching prey, and sometimes while they are perching, one toe swivels round to the back to improve grip. Owls have very rough feet, which helps them grip their prey or a perch.

The tawny owl's well-known call "to-whit, to-whoo" is actually a duet. The female makes the "to-whit" sound while the male answers with "to-whoo" (actually, a quivering "whoo").

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