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What do you call a group of owls

01:00 Mon 13th Aug 2001 |

A. Possibly linked to the perception that owls are wise, a group of them is called a parliament of owls.

Q. What makes owls such good hunters

A. Owls are raptors, or birds of prey, hunting mainly at night. This requires a special set of adaptations for them to be successful. They have exceptional vision, along with acute hearing. They can fly silently and catch and tear prey with their powerful talons and sharp beak.

Q. How can owls fly silently

A. Normally, the sound produced by a bird as it flies is partly caused by the rush of air over the surface of wing - but owls have wing feathers that muffle this noise. This serves two purposes: prey can't hear the owl approaching, and the owl is able to listen for its victim's movements while flying.

Also, the size of most owls' rounded wings is large by comparison with that of their bodies - so they have to carry relatively little weight, which allows the owl to fly without a lot of flapping.

Q. Why do owls have forward-facing eyes

A. An owl's eyes are remarkable, both in their appearance and ability.

They're large and forward-facing -unusual among birds, which generally have eyes on the side of their heads. This positioning accounts in part for their wise appearance; humans and other 'higher intelligence' animals also have forward-facing eyes.

Appearance, though, isn't really the issue. It actually gives the owl a wide range of binocular vision, allowing it to see an object with both eyes simultaneously. So owls can judge an object's distance.

Q. How can owls see at night

A. The large size of an owl's eyes helps improve their efficiency, especially in low light. Their large cornea and pupil mean that they can make the most of even small amounts of light.

Conversely, even though owls are mainly nocturnal birds, their eyes can also see perfectly well in broad daylight. Their eye parts adapt to the greater amount of light available.

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by Lisa Cardy

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