The Owl can be quite a spooky bird at first sight and this is because of its physical appearance; identified by its binocular vision, upright stance, sharp talons, large broad head, feathers adapted for silent flight and binaural hearing.
There are more than 200 species of owls around the world, divided into two families; barn-owl family and the true owl family. This class of bird is known to be a fearless, solitary and nocturnal bird of prey. While some people consider owls as fascinating, cute and a symbol of something great, others think of the bird as ugly and evil.
Owl facts are the key to understanding why it is considered evil in some continents of the world, like Africa and Europe.
Owls have binocular visions with their large eyes fixed in their sockets. Their eyes are not considered true eyeballs but rather called tubes held in place by a bony structure; in other words, their eyes are immobile; Owls cannot roll its eyes in any direction and can only look straight ahead. Hence their extraordinary night vision, more than any animal, and ability to turn their neck to as much as 270-degree angle; 135 degrees in either direction.
Although it is a general belief that owls see only at night and are blind in strong light, however, their pupils have a wide range of adjustment, allowing the right amount of light to strike the retina.
Also, their eye color indicates when they prefer to hunt. For instances, Owls with orange eyes are crepuscular (active during twilight); owls with dark brown or black eyes are nocturnal (active at night); yellow eyes owls are diurnal (active by day). It is also fascinating to know that this bird has three eyelids: one for keeping the eyes healthy and clean, one for blinking, and the other for sleeping.
The two families of Owl are distinguished by the shape of their face: round face (true owls) and heart-shaped face (barn owls). Its facial disk, which is adjustable, acts to direct sound into the ears, while its downward-facing, sharply triangular beak is there to reduce the sound reflection away from the face.
Owls are distinguished by their external or internal asymmetrical ear placements right on the skull and this aids them to pinpoint the exact location of their prey. By turning its head, the owl can directly face the source of the sound.
Basically, the bird’s flattened face funnels sound to their ears so that they can detect even the slightest noise.
This ancient bird is notoriously known as one among few of the birds of the night. They basically hunt their prey at night and while most birds are known to retire at night, the owl remains active. For Africans, any bird that roams at night is considered a hideous creature and up to no good.
Owls are found in all continents except Antarctica which is a virtually uninhabited icy landmass. Other than that, this bird can be found just about anywhere, even on house roof, if it is close to their hunting ground; not that they are domesticated birds.
Like most birds, the owl is very wild and lives in forests, deserts and prairies; nesting in trees, ground holes, barns, and in caves. A group of owls is called a parliament (or wisdom, bazaar, study). While a group of baby owls is called Owlets.
Owls are stone cold carnivorous hunters and diet on preys such as ants, mice, skunks, rabbits, hares, voles, fish and other birds like grouse, pheasants. They simply swallow their prey whole but first. Using its sharp gripping talon the Owl crushes the food into strips, gobble it whole, digesting it, and then vomiting up the bones and furs in a pellet.
A group of owls is called a parliament of owls which sounds ironic since some owls hunt other owls. The Horned Owl is known to be the perpetrator of intra-species violence.
By nature, you can think of Owls as arrogant, bullies and lazy birds (but definitely not lazy at hunting). For one thing, Owls don’t build their nests, rather, they mooch other birds’ nests or tree cavities left behind by other birds, such as woodpeckers or northern flickers. Even the Burrowing Owls don’t dig their own holes.
Their hunting ability is so efficient, an owl that’s helping to feed the owlets can kill dozens of prey in one night. Barn owls will form a bond with a mate for life while other owls will stay together long enough to see the owlets leave the nest.
Besides its vocalizations or vividly colored eyes that is a tell-tale sign of a perched owl, the bird is nearly invisible to prey. Owl has the ability to be still and blend into the environment is due to coloration of its plumage.
With the exception barn owls, horned owls are dotted with shades of tan, brown and black, that makes them nearly invisible in the surrounding trees. Such is the case with snowy owls which are nearly bleach-white in color in other to mimic their snowy surroundings perfectly
Owls are masters of stealth and can easily sneak up on its unsuspecting prey due to its specialized feathers; a large wing surface relative to body weight, with reduced turbulence, allowing them to glide noiselessly without detection. It’s no wonder many people freak out when they suddenly see an owl close by and think it appears or disappears at will.
Owls are detected by their “hoo hoo” sound but not all owls hoot. Those that do, also make other noises, such as chirps, whistles, screeches, barks, growls, and shrieks. The great horned owl is usually associated with hoot call.
Barn owls make terrifying “hiss” sound when they’re feeling threatened, such that one would think a snake is somewhere nearby.
Owls have been marked as not suited as a pet partly due to their extreme wildness; diet which is strictly meat; and their unpredictable/aggressive nature. They’re considered lousy pets that will inflict major injury if not handled carefully. It is even illegal to keep one as a pet, but if you must, procurement of license is in order.
As cute as they look, owls are very uncoachable, therefore can not be easily trained/order around. They also sleep in the day and active at night, limiting it associates with humans.
Why Owl is Considered Evil in Africa
In countries like South Africa and Nigeria, owls are associated with witchcraft and bad luck. To call someone an “owl” is the highest insult. With a face like a Satellite dish, dotted with immovable eyes balls, the owl looks daring, spooky and creepy. Not only do some people consider the Owl such a scary creature to behold, but the thought of the bird as a topic of discussion among peers is totally forbidden. Why? you might ask, it is because no one wants to talk about what they’re afraid of for fear of having a nightmare.
Even an ancient tribe like the Aztecs and Mayans feared and hated the Owl because they believed the wide-eyed birds were symbols of death and destruction.
Just as in the Harry Potter series where Owls are the primary means of communication between wizards, Africans considers this to be true.
Symbolisms of Owl
Owls are often associated with desolation; often spotted on lonely desolate places and ruins, as it is depicted in many horror/thriller films.
An African superstitious belief depicts owls as messengers hoo acts as monitors for evil spirits and witches, through their fixed bulging eyes. Since the owl is the only bird that dares to fly to heaven to see God in all His illumination, it became blind to bright lights.
In some European and American Indian traditions, an owl is associated with witchcraft. In Arabic, the name for one variety of owl means the “mother of ruins”.
If it is of any consolation, the Owl is considered a symbol of wisdom and prophecy to ancient Greeks who considered Athena as their goddess of wisdom. Athena’s symbol was an owl which was portrayed in the movie, Clash of the Titans.
The owl is regarded as a spirit animal that sees in the dark; beyond the veil of deception and illusion. It symbolizes intuition, ability to see what others do not see; change or life transition; capacity to see beyond deceit and masks.
In ancient Greek traditions, the owl is the announcer of death. It is believed that it is the only animal that is able to visit the land of the dead at will to escort the soul of someone who has passed on.
A dream interpretation of the owl depicts it as a warning sign of impending danger or threat to look out for. Its presence is also seen as either a good or bad omen. As it is a symbolism of fertility in ancient Welsh, a pregnant woman who heard an owl hoot is believed to be in luck as she would have an easy labour.