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Saturday, 31 October 2009

Birds Of Prey - Owls

Owls are birds of prey which are generally active during the night. These creatures have always been regarded as birds of great mystery, most likely due to their nocturnal activities, soundless flight and common screeching calls. Some people think that Owls are spooky; others say that they are wise, and I find them outstanding creatures.

There are as many as 220 to 225 existant species of owls found all over the world and they vary in a lot of different sizes. For instance the Eagle Owl that lives in Europe is known as one of the largest owls in the world, it may reach a size of 60-71 cm (28.4 in) long, whereas the Great Horned owl is one of the biggest owls in North America and the Elf Owl is one of the smallest owls in the world which is about 13.5 cm (5.3 in) long.

Owls have a flat face, a hawk-like beak and usually a noticeable circle of feathers around their forward-facing eyes. They see extremely well in the dark; however they are not capable of seeing anything clearly within a few inches of their eyes because they are far-sighted. Their distant vision, principally in dim light is extremely good. Contrary to the popular myth, Owls cannot spin their head around in circles. They are able to turn their head completely in either direction to see. These birds have well-developed ears, with flaps of skin shaping "outer ears," hidden beneath the feathers. The "ear clumps" on the heads of many owls are, in reality, feathers. The flight feathers of an Owl have special wing features which deadens the owl’s wing-beats, allowing its flight to be practically silent. The owl scoops down like a ghost and grabs its prey with no warning of attack. They feed on small mammals such as rats, insects and other birds. But there are some species of owls that are especially adapted for fishing.

Like most wildlife, owls are increasingly threatened by the loss of their natural habitat due to human activity or climate change. All owls are listed in Appendix II of the international CITES treaty (the Convention of Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

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