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"Everyone loves owls. Even mammalogists love owls."
February 28, 2013 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Why are owls so wise? Perhaps it's because they're utter badasses.
Ferocity is essential for a bird whose frigid, spotty range extends across northeastern China, the Russian Far East and up toward the Arctic Circle, one that breeds and nests in the dead of winter, perched atop a giant cottonwood or elm tree, out in the open, in temperatures 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Dr. Slaght’s colleague Sergei Surmach videotaped a female sitting on her nest during a blizzard. “All you could see at the end was her tail jutting out,” Dr. Slaght said.
The New York Times Science section gives an update on some current owl research.

Trigger warning: overwrought prose. But research highlights include using owls as inspiration for designing quieter flying vehicles, an estimate that a parliament of owls can eat 25,000 rats in a year, and some information on owls' amazing hearing.
posted by medusa (46 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
As my ex-gf used to say: "FUCK OWLS!"

I'm not going to say this is the main reason we broke up, but it didn't help.
posted by Fizz at 8:30 AM on February 28, 2013


Please, everyone, do not fuck owls.
posted by theodolite at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


Many cultures, including some Native American tribes, see owls as creepy bad omens. I don't quite understand why, and haven't really seen that unpacked satisfactorily.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do not love owls. My mother loves to tell everyone that when I was a child I was terrified of owls and would wake up crying that owls were going to get me.

I'm not really afraid of them anymore but they still seem kind of creepy to me. It's the eyes and the way their heads turn, brrrrrr, gives me the chills.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:42 AM on February 28, 2013


YOLO: You obviously like owls.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:42 AM on February 28, 2013 [20 favorites]


Possibly some owls in desperation will feed on the dead, like vultures? Maybe that's the bad omen thing, I dunno..just speculatin.
posted by spicynuts at 8:42 AM on February 28, 2013


Burhanistan: maybe it's because they're such efficient predators, coupled with the silent gliding flight thing. Silent death from above.
posted by medusa at 8:45 AM on February 28, 2013


The wise old owl sat on an oak.
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can't you be like that wise old bird?
posted by goethean at 8:47 AM on February 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


They also seem to make great pets.

Well, probably not, but if I was crazy rich and had someone else to take care of the bad parts then I'd definitely have one.
posted by codacorolla at 8:47 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


MeFi's Own!
posted by Rock Steady at 8:47 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some owls can really get up in your grill though.
posted by orme at 8:47 AM on February 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


When I was a kid, I had this phonograph record about owls. Might have had a book to go along with it, but I know it did have a large poster, and you could follow along on the poster with what was being said about the owls in question, and see a drawing of them, or their habitat, or hunting, in flight, etc.

All very cool. Until we got near the last drawing/section. Which had spooky-ish music and started talking about Barn Owls, with an accompanying drawing of one. I used to have to stop the record because Barn Owls are freaky and scary...

All the other owls are super cool and I like them a lot, but those Barn Owls...Brrrrrrr...
posted by Windopaene at 8:49 AM on February 28, 2013


The wise old owl sat on an oak.
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can't you be like that wise old bird?


Owl Bar!
posted by codacorolla at 8:49 AM on February 28, 2013



Please, everyone, do not fuck owls.

this bears repeating.
posted by The Owls at 8:51 AM on February 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


Species like the barn, barred, screech and horned have some of the keenest auditory systems known, able to hear potential prey stirring deep under leaves, snow or grass, identify the rodent species and even assess its relative plumpness or state of pregnancy, based on sound alone.

Wow.
posted by yoga at 8:53 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The First Snow Owl, the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Snow Owl, Snow Owl, Snow Owl, Snow Owl...
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:55 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


The owls are not what they seem.
posted by steambadger at 9:01 AM on February 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Everyone loves owls.

Counterpoint.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:06 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do you like our owl?
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 9:10 AM on February 28, 2013


Please, everyone, do not fuck owls.

this bears repeating.


Repeat: Do not fuck bears.

Or owlbears.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:11 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


A few decades ago I was up very early, packing for a winter camping trip on skis. It was about 5F outside and I thought I'd check the current conditions on our back porch by flipping on the big outdoor floodlights.

On the railing, perhaps five feet away, was a great horned owl. It turned huge golden eyes on me, stretched out its wings and simply lifted itself into the darkness leaving only a bit of bare railing behind. I saw the bird for probably just seconds, but was left breathless, covered in gooseflesh. What a rush, and what a spectacular bird.

Now that I live with a parrot, I have new appreciation for the specialized equipment birds have for acquiring food. Owls are exquisitely adapted for hunting at night; it's those adaptations that make their appearance so extraordinary and awe-inspiring.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:43 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a pair of great horned owls that range around my neighborhood and often perch at night atop the utility poles behind our fence. In addition to the magnificent hooting, they also make a higher-pitched barking noise, which I suppose is to call one another. It's always such a thrill to see them take off in their near-soundless flight.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:46 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]




Or owlbears.

Wow, awesome. I like that a lot better than the current version, which is just a bear body with an owl head stuck on top. This looks more like some freaky creature from who knows where, rather than just a bad game of Animal Mad Libs.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:09 AM on February 28, 2013


I don't like owls. I like crows. Owls murder crows. Therefore, I don't like owls.
posted by tommyD at 10:11 AM on February 28, 2013


Owls, for all their magnificent sensory equipment, are dumb as posts. Those huge eyes and hyper-acute (asymmetrical!) ears don't leave much room in their tiny skull for a brain. They're all senses, but no sense.

For example, there's a large male eagle owl at Kortright that, every year, carefully builds a huge nest in its cage. Every year, he hoots soulfully to one of the keepers to come and make some sweet owl lovin' with him. It's the saddest thing in the world to see him make "come to nest" owl eyes at her.
posted by scruss at 10:52 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


As my ex-gf used to say: "FUCK OWLS!"

No bird fucking allowed! It's the law!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:58 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any animal that vomits skeleton pellets is fine by me.
posted by Decani at 11:11 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will vouch for this thread title. I am a published mammalogist, and I love owls.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:27 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have no particular interest in owls, but they seem to have taken an interest in me lately.
posted by workerant at 11:35 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I like owls, but then I also think that spiders are pretty neat too, so I may not be the best judge.
posted by bonehead at 11:54 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Plus they're fluffyyyyyyyyyy!
posted by ErikaB at 11:58 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am lucky enough to occasionally be visited by a barred owl who sits in an old oak, calling intermittently (presumably between his efforts at eradicating the local mouse and vole population). Owls are pretty great.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:10 PM on February 28, 2013


Not everyone likes owls. For instance, there are apparently 840 Iyako collectable Japanese erasers, depicting all kinds of animals. There is not an owl one.

Me, I think owls are awesome. I don't know if I'd like to have a beer with one, but they are awesome.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:19 PM on February 28, 2013


I'm surprised no has made the observation that owls are basically flying cats. It is well known that mefi goes gaga for those, so owls are great just by transitivity. Sure they have their own awesome stuff, but they fill a similar niche both in nature and in our hearts.
posted by anateus at 12:19 PM on February 28, 2013


ErikaB: Plus they're fluffyyyyyyyyyy!
They sure are!

(or did you mean owls?)
posted by IAmBroom at 1:02 PM on February 28, 2013


Please, everyone, do not fuck owls.

I believe you were thinking of the swans.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:06 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


workerant: I have no particular interest in owls, but they seem to have taken an interest in me lately.
If a letter appears under your door, or near an open window...
posted by IAmBroom at 1:16 PM on February 28, 2013


Son of an owl!
posted by goethean at 1:19 PM on February 28, 2013


A few years ago I had to spend a couple of hours every night outdoors, in a rural area doing basically nothing at all. There was a tree with an owl nearby. I really liked the company of the owl, it was a hoot.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:57 PM on February 28, 2013


The first comment from that piece is... engaging:
I lived in an attic room during college in the 80's in Boulder, Colorado. I would read in front of the window that looked out onto a large tree in the backyard. My landlady had a bird feeder and late one spring, a parakeet appeared. It was accustomed to people and would calmly remain munching away at the feeder when someone appeared while all the wild birds fled. We loved its colorful presence but also worried it wouldn't last long in the wild. It wasn't tame enough to catch.

One afternoon, as I was sitting by the window, I saw a flurry of movement out of the corner of my eye. Looking up, I saw the parakeet flying straight at me with a larger bird right behind it. The parakeet hit the window and it's pursuer caught it on the rebound - it's wing tip brushing the glass as it turned with the parakeet in its beak. A smear of blood remained on the glass. This bird turned out to be a Northern Pygmy Owl. It landed a few feet away in the crotch of the tree outside my window and proceeded to eat the parakeet.

My next door neighbor was a birder who had been following the frantic pursuit. She sent out a call to her birding friends who soon crowded into our backyard with binoculars and long camera lenses. They told me this owl was a rare sighting. No doubt the parakeet proved too bright and tempting to resist. All that was left when the owl departed was a scattering of bright green feathers at the base of the tree.
posted by disillusioned at 2:08 PM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Owls are those things that are found on every bit of homemade hipster jewelry, right?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:42 PM on February 28, 2013


Please, everyone, do not fuck owls.

this bears repeating.


Mean... Was it something I said?

Seriously though, have you rotated your owl lately? It's important for proper maintenance.
posted by owls at 4:17 PM on February 28, 2013


I kept rotating the owls in Fez but it never seemed to do anything.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:23 PM on February 28, 2013


Youtube Slow motion owl landing. Watch it in HD. The eyes! The feathers are cool, too.

Previously on Metafilter.
posted by jjj606 at 5:34 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]




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