The Owl Pages

General Owl Physiology

By Deane Lewis

About Owls


Domain: Eukaryota (Organisms with complex cells)
Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum: Chordata (Having a hollow dorsal nervecord and flexible skeletal rod)
Sub-Phylum: Vertebrata (Having a backbone)
Class: Aves (Birds)
Order: Strigiformes (Owls)

Owls are a group of mainly nocturnal (active at night) birds classified as belonging to the order Strigiformes, a group which is most closely related to nightjars (Caprimulgiformes). The order is divided into two families: Tytonidae or Barn Owls and related species, and Strigidae or Typical Owls.
Click Here to see a full list of the World's Owls.

Appearance: A large, round head and huge, forward-facing eyes are features that make an owl instantly recognisable. They also have a sharp, downward-facing beak (or bill), and soft, cryptically coloured plumage. Males and Females are generally similar in appearance, although the female is often up to 25% larger.

Adaptations: Owls are Raptors, or Birds of Prey, which means they hunt other living things for their food, using their special adaptations and unique abilities that set them apart from any other creature.
Exceptional vision, and acute hearing play a major part in an Owl's hunting technique. Couple these with powerful talons and beak, plus the ability to fly silently, and you have a formidable predator, using stealth to hunt down prey.

Owl Pellets: After eating, owls regurgitate pellets, which contain the indigestible bones, fur and feathers of their victims. These pellets can be collected by researchers to study owls' eating habits.

Distribution: Owls are found on all continents except Antarctica, and in a great variety of habitats, from thick forests to open prairies.

Size: The smallest owl in the world is the Least Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium minutissimum) at 12cm tall, and the biggest owl in the world is is generally accepted to be the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) at up to 71cm tall.

Parts of an Owl

owl parts
Parts of a Typical Owl - In this case from the genus Athene
owl face
Long-eared Owl face - not all species have ear-tufts
owl face profile
Side view - not all species have false eyes
owl wing
Wing and tail of an owl shown from the upperside
References: (may contain affiliate links)
Campbell, Wayne. 1994. "Know Your Owls". Axia Wildlife.
Hollands, David. 1991. "Birds of the Night". Reed Books.
König, Claus & Weick, Friedhelm. 2008. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World (Second Edition)". Yale University Press.
König, Weick and Becking. 1999. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World". Yale University Press.
Long, Kim. 1998. "Owls: A Wildlife Handbook". Johnson Books.
Mikkola, Heimo. 1983. "Owls of Europe". Buteo Books.

Page updated 2015-06-18