What birds are the most mysterious? What birds come out at night? Which birds are sometimes called wise? The answer to all these questions is owls. But there are many different kinds of owls and most are more common than most people think.

How many different kinds of owls are there? New York State has seven kinds of owls that nest in the state and another four which are sometimes seen during the winter (click here for a list of birds for the state). Worldwide, there are hundreds of species of owls (click here for a list).

Are owls wise? Well, they are smart enough to find food, to nest and raise young, and sometimes even to live close to people without being noticed. That's pretty smart. People think owls look wise because owls look a little like people do. They have large eyes on the front of their heads, and their feathered heads make them look like they have room for a big brain. Take a look for yourself at the Patuxent Bird Identification site which has pictures of a lot of different owls. Do they look wise to you?

Why are owls nocturnal? By coming out at night to hunt, owls have the skies mostly to themselves. They don't have to try to hunt animals to eat while birds like hawks and eagles are also hunting. They also can swoop in out of the dark and catch their food when the animals they are hunting can't see them very easily. Still, not all owls are nocturnal. The short-eared owl often hunts mice in grassy fields during the day. The snowy owl is a northern owl which comes south to New York State some winters. It is a daytime hunter too.

Do owls really say "whoooo"? The great horned owl is one owl that does, but others have different sounding songs and calls. Visit eNature.com to hear some owl sounds. Some people interested in birds go out at night looking for owls. They play the songs of owls on a tape recorder or CD player and listen for an owl to answer. You should not do this in the same spot too often. If you do, you might make the local owls think another owl is taking over the neighborhood. If an owl thinks this, it will move away to a new territory.

Are owls rare? Many people have never seen a real wild owl. Most owls hunt at night when most people are indoors. During the day, owls hide so that other kinds of birds will not find them and try to chase them away. Some owls hide in evergreen trees or in hollow trees. Some kinds of owls are rare but some are very common. Most small wood lots in the country in New York State have great horned owls living and nesting in them. Many older suburbs have screech owls living in the hollows of big trees.

Is there a way you can help owls? If you live in the right kind of area, you might be able to put up a nest box for owls. If you live on or near a farm, you could make a barn owl nest box. If you live in the suburbs, you could make a screech owl nest box.

How can you find out more about owls? Your library should have some good books on owls. The Internet has some good owl Websites, including the ones linked above. You may also enjoy a visit to the Owl Pages, the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center pages (raptors include hawks, eagles, and owls), the Owl Research Institute, and KidWings' pages about Owl Pellets. See Owling.com for additional links.
View text-based website