Apr 16, 2012

O is for...

Ospreys! And owls! And...ornithology, I guess.

Let's start with the osprey. Here's some things you may not know about the osprey:  first of all, they have zygodactyl feet! This means that they have two toes in the front and two toes in the back, like a parrot. This is incredibly useful for catching fish. Speaking of fish, they have a very special arrangement with the bald eagle. Namely, the bald eagle will wait for an osprey to catch a fish, then fly over and harass the osprey until it drops the fish, taking the fish for itself. I can't imagine why Benjamin Franklin didn't think that the bald eagle would make a good symbol for America (of course, he recommended the wild turkey so...yeah...). Hmm, more about ospreys... They mate for life and continue to grow the same nest throughout their lifetimes, and their children's lifetimes, and their children's children's...there are some nests that have been in use for over 70 years. 

Owls! Owls are really cool. You probably know that they can see in the dark. What you may not have known is that in order to have enough cones in their eyes to pick up enough light at night to see, they have lost the ability to move their eyes. To compensate for this, owls have a set of extremely flexible vertebrae in their necks that allow them to turn their heads 270 degrees (3/4 of the way around a circle). Something else you might not be aware of are their ears. You know how your ears are on either side of your head, in about the same place? Well, not so much with owls. One ear is higher and the other is lower, specifically so that they can pick up sounds above and below them accurately. To further help with this, have you ever seen an owl's face?

See those discs around their eyes? Those actually help filter sound to the owls ears, which helps them accurately find the position of sounds in front of them. Speaking of sound, most nocturnal critters have pretty darn good ears. Do yourself a favor one day and find a diurnal (active during the day) raptor's feather. Give it a good flap. You know what you hear? Sound. Now find an owl feather. Notice the soft down over the surface? This does more than make them cute, fluffy, and cuddle-able (NEVER CUDDLE AN OWL!!!), it also lets them fly silently at night. Bottom line:  if it's night-time, an owl knows where you are, and it is like the ninja.


  1. I loooove owls. My favorite necklace has an owl on it. And I want one...but mostly just so it can fly around delivering my letters. Great post and happy A-Z blogging!

  2. My mother collected owl figurines when I was a kid. They were everywhere! And somehow that didn't ruin owls for me. :)

  3. We had a screech owl in our house last winter (long story), but he was so cute and I managed to snap a picture of him sitting on our bag of potatoes before I got him out the door.