Do owls think a lot?

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Owls have long been associated with wisdom and omniscience, although once they were also blamed for many troubles, with certain people considering them as harbingers of tragedies. Owls live all over the earth, but we don’t see them so often because this bird of prey prefers a nocturnal lifestyle.
The owl has long symbolized wisdom and intelligence. The ancient Greeks and Romans considered the owl brilliant, calling her a companion of the goddess Minerva. The Indians of North America held the same opinion.

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In the literary epic about Harry Potter, the owl brought and carried mail, perfectly navigating any terrain without any unique, seemingly, hints. Demonstrating excellent cognitive abilities and an excellent mind for a bird, the owls from the book helped Harry and his friends a lot.
A book is a good thing. However, in real life, scientists hardly advised any of us to use owls as postmen. According to recent research, there is not such a brilliant mind behind the beautiful huge eyes of owls. Unlike crows, magpies, and parrots – birds that perfectly cope with intellectual tasks, owls do not show excellent results. Previously, people believed that the cognitive abilities of birds with a complex brain structure were much higher than those of others. However, recent studies suggest the opposite: owls, having an “impressive” brain, are inferior in intellectual abilities.
People think that owls are wise because of their big eyes, giving the impression of high intelligence. Still, the fact is that it is almost impossible to train an owl, while other birds (parrots, hawks, and even pigeons) can learn how to extract objects and perform simple tasks.

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However, this does not mean that owls are completely stupid! They need to actively use their brains for successful hunting at night.

In their everyday life, owls do an excellent job with many tasks: they are excellent hunters and are remarkably able to lure victims.

Do owls think a lot

Do owls represent intelligence?

First, we need to understand what intelligence is. After all, many actions of animals that can be mistaken for remarkable mental abilities are a manifestation of instincts or training.

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Intelligence is a quality of the psyche consisting of the ability to adapt to new situations, learn and memorize based on experience, understand and apply abstract concepts, and use knowledge to manage the environment. Intelligence in animals is a set of mental functions that cannot be explained by instincts or learning.

In books, films, and television shows, people invariably portray owls as intelligent animals. However, we should base this opinion on real facts and the results of research. Young owls can learn new things. Scientists have found out that owls can suppress memories that do not correspond to reality. They can learn associations and save them. Although these abilities suggest that owls can learn how to deliver items to a particular place, they do not yet say how wise owls are. 

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Can owls think consciously and strategically? Can birds remember past events and use this knowledge to determine their possible behavior in the future? 

According to numerous observations and studies of these birds’ nature, lifestyle, and thinking, any owl is not too burdened with thought processes. 

Moreover, according to some studies of foreign ornithologists who conducted experiments on the ingenuity of owls and other bird species to the extraction methods of food hidden by scientists, owls were almost in last place, outstripped in intelligence by weavers, crows, and even thrushes. Therefore, the symbolism of wisdom and sacred knowledge is just a symbolism long attached to these birds.

It is just that the owl knows how to present itself and is silent a lot. As a rule, this is enough in order not to seem stupid.

Objectively speaking, owls differ from the rest of the birds by their large head and the location of the eyes in front, which in turn are large and very expressive (agree, compared to a crow, it looks very intellectual). 

The behavior of an owl is calm, measured, cold-blooded, and the flight is silent (thanks to the complex structure of the wings). The owl looks presentable because of the down and feathers, and the size of the head is half fur and half eyes.

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Nevertheless, owls have enough presence of mind to know their owners, to get in touch with them, to fight and care for them. 

Do owls have feelings?

Even though owls do not have facial expressions, their plumage sometimes takes the most unexpected forms. As a result, it seems that the owl is smiling, sad, or angry.

The expression of the owl’s “face” can be different-from threatening to surprised and frightened, since the owl works perfectly with its eyes. In general, the image of an owl is quite solid: large yellow eyes, a sharp curved beak, ears apart, which creates a picture of a predator. The primary purpose of the owl is hunting, and therefore it is always in suspense, ready to fight back because its gaze seems angry and dissatisfied. The people looking at her think of something based on the human physiognomy.

We interpret the image of the owl’s face based on our usual human emotions. That’s why the owl’s face seems gloomy and dissatisfied to us. In general, this phenomenon is similar to seeing a look on the moon and in different spots.

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Most likely, people often attribute to animals and birds certain eye expressions, emotions that they do not experience.

Scientists believe that feathers effectively hide any facial expressions that may be present under them. We only see large human-like owl heads that send clear messages.

Owls can feel both genuine gratitude and great relief.

Owls feel and express emotions. They communicate with their eyes, beaks, voice, and body language. They feel the same way we do. Even ancient scientists wondered: do animals have a soul? This is what has been scientifically proven to date.

Falling in love

By creating pairs, animals experience real love. The level of oxytocin, or the hormone of love, in the blood, indicates this.


The devotion of the tamed owl to man is so great that if it suffers the loss of its owner, the pet can grieve for a very long time.


Owls protect each other and share food. They recognize their partners even after a long separation.

An owl is not the friendliest creature. These birds do not like to be touched and can be very aggressive, especially in spring, when the mating season begins. If an owl lives at your house, then like a dog, an owl will treat you calmly. In addition, the owl will fiercely defend its territory. The owl can give out thrusts or even cling to the face with its claws. Some species of owls like to bite.

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Do owls need a lot of attention?

Yes, they do. Proper care, prevention of diseases, and their treatment are critical. However, when it comes to owls, it can be tough to find a competent veterinarian. However, there are such doctors mainly in clinics at zoos, etc.

Owls are large birds with a wingspan of up to 1.5 m. It means that they also need spacious housing. For convenience, the owl needs an aviary at least 6 m in height. It will also need perches. Some owners keep owls in a nest. An owl needs to be able to flap its wings before it settles on a perch. Otherwise, there is a risk of respiratory tract infection.

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Owls need a lot of attention. They scream shrilly and demand communication from their owners.  This means that even if your owl lives in an outdoor aviary, you will not be able to leave her alone for a long time, as the noise will be powerful, and your neighbors are unlikely to like it. During the mating season, owls become even noisier. They scream and hoot both day and night. These sounds will not let you or your neighbors sleep: the only exception is when an owl is allowed to fly at night in the wild.

Owls shed all year round. Therefore, there will always be feathers and feces next to its dwelling. It would help if you cleaned your owl’s habitat regularly due to the smell.

You will need a separate freezer where you can store completely animal carcasses. Owls need raw food, so you will have either to buy it or hunt yourself. Such a diet is necessary for the health of the owl. People should remember this before purchasing an owl. Otherwise, the bird will get sick.

Owls have very sharp beaks and no less sharp claws. If the owl even accidentally touches your hand with them, deep scratches will remain on the skin. Therefore, always put on thick gloves when in contact with owls. In addition, in a state of excitement or stress, owls can bite. Their claws spoil wooden furniture, and if an owl flies around the house, you will most likely regularly find torn pillows, soft toys, and bed linen.

Owls live from 10 to 20 years, and if you are not ready to pay much attention to the owl, devote a lot of time and effort to taking care of the bird throughout its life, do not take it.

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Do owls like their owners?

Owls are very sociable animals if they are not intimidated and under stress. In Japan, there are even whole cafes and restaurants where you can have a snack and enjoy the company of these majestic birds. However, it is not legal to keep such animals at home in all countries.

Even though some bird lovers keep owls in their homes and believe that these birds live longer in captivity, it is not easy keeping an owl.

The main reason for this is their nocturnal lifestyle, which is practically incompatible with the human regime. These birds have a “disco” at night, and you cannot do anything about it.

Add to this their nocturnal cries and a special menu in the form of live rodents — this combination can completely discourage even the most avid bird lover from having an owl.

An owl is primarily a wild bird. The intelligence of an owl is not much more than any other bird, and for some, even less. Such a bird will not give much love and affection a priority to the owner. The owl has no attachment to the owner, will not fawn, and ask her to stroke it like a cat. Many owls captured on video are smitten by stroking and touching – rather, a pleasant exception, or just a reflex in a bird, as a reaction to an invasion of its personal space – to freeze and not move. Of course, owls raised from a chick are much more pleasant to communicate with, but they have difficulties in upbringing and cultivation, which not every beginner can cope with.

The character of each bird is individual. In general, owls are territorial birds with a possessive attitude towards the owner. They will perceive an outsider as a threat: this means that the owl is quite capable of attacking a member of your family or a friend. Training owls is a challenging task, requiring a lot of patience and understanding on the part of the owner.

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Owls are usually very attached to the person who takes care of them. If people raise the owl from a very early age, it is challenging when the owner is absent. By their nature, owls are not friendly animals and establish contact only with their partner and cubs. For an owl living in captivity, the owner becomes a family. If for some reason, someone else feeds her instead of the owner, the owl can treat this person with hostility.

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Owl characteristics behavior

Owls are wild birds of prey belonging to the same family as eagles and vultures. In principle, they have a very peculiar character, so it is not easy to have owls as pets. Nevertheless, many people want to buy a tame owl.

Owls are strikingly different from domestic birds, such as parrots. They have prominent personalities and habits. Therefore, it is tough to keep them as pets. Owls need special care, which will require a considerable amount of time, effort, and finances. Even with such respect, there is no guarantee that the owl will be satisfied and will not be in a permanent state of stress.

An owl is a predator, but it is impossible to feed this bird with beef and chicken, even more so with sausage and sausages. For the feathered bird not to have health problems, its diet should consist of mice, hamsters, rats, quails, insects, and even rabbits. You will have to kill this “food” yourself since birds raised for keeping at home have poorly developed skills of killing the victim — a rodent designed to be a dinner can easily bite an owl’s paw, which will lead to the development of infection.

Owls shit a lot. Birds have a delicious metabolism, which leads to the rapid excretion of feces. Small birds defecate more often than large ones, but large ones leave more enormous piles. In addition, the frequency of bowel movements depends on the activity of the bird. For example, a mobile little owl can shit fifteen times a day. 

The owls are screaming. Cute hooting is not specific in every species of owls. The characteristic sounds of this feathered are screams and quite loud and sharp. Therefore, the bird will communicate at night, in the spring, and at any other time when it seems necessary to it.

To keep an owl, you will have to allocate a very spacious aviary or an entire room. The assigned space will have to be equipped – to curtain the mirror and glass surfaces, to remove all objects that the owl can tear or in which it can get tangled. From the moment you put an owl in your house, it will perceive the premises issued for use exclusively as its territory. It is impossible to keep this bird in a cage since it will wrap itself with a feather, a wax, and earn scratches on its paws. However, this is how a bird can relate to your entire home.

Five facts about owls


The strongest and healthiest chicks get more attention and food

The mother owl will always choose the most muscular and most adult chick and feed it first. The bird will prefer to raise the most viable cub and the weakest will most likely die if there are problems with food. In the wild nature, it is important to feed the most perspective children, which are more likely to survive. 

Owls adapt perfectly to almost any living conditions

Owls can live in very different places, from caves, forests, cactus groves to ordinary boxes, and this is only part of the list where people find owls’ nests. If you want, you can even have an owl in your backyard. It also happens!

Owls have been living on our planet for 70-80 million years.

Archaeologists have concluded based on the remains of ancient birds from the order of owls discovered. A giant prehistoric owl is Ornimegalonyx, and the size of its body reached a whole meter in length! The extinct animal lived on the territory of modern Cuba, and it is not able to fly. Ornimegalonyx’s wings were too small and weak for such a carcass, but instead, this creature had mighty paws and sharp claws.

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The Myth of Owl Parliaments

In the West, owls gather in flocks an erroneous stereotype. Citizens dissatisfied with the inaction of their parliament came up with a whole collection of bright and ironic epithets. It was even nicknamed parliament in honor of the winged expression of the economic crisis in France in 1912. Civil servants were compared to a bunch of owls with substantial surprised eyes and heads turning around.

In the history of humanity, owls have always been iconic animals

Images of owls have been found in prehistoric caves, among ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, and even in the art of the extinct Maya people. They often symbolize with wisdom and victory. The owl was also a symbol of failure and trouble. In the culture of Africans, Indians, and some Asian peoples, owls were considered an omen of death and misfortune. There is a legend that in ancient Greece, an owl predicted the end of Julius Caesar. The Greeks treated them as a symbol of wisdom and minted their image on their coins. The Egyptians believed that these animals lived in the afterlife and only occasionally penetrated ours. In addition, the Chinese have always seen them as exceptionally evil.


The extraordinary plumage, which other birds do not possess, allows owls to fly silently. It helps them hunt at night when everything is quiet, and any sound is heard at times more potent than during the day.

The predominant part of these predators is awake at night and sleeps during the day. An interesting fact is that the white owl is the main exception to this rule. She gets her food only during the day, living in snow-covered areas and having a snow-white color that allows her to blend in with the environment.

The specific structure of the body allows the bird to turn its head by as much as 270 degrees, all because they cannot move their eyes, always looking only straight.

Among the interesting facts about swamp owls, the key is that they are one of the few animals that are monogamous. Once they have chosen a soul mate for themselves, they stay with her for the rest of their lives.

Unlike other animals, owls live much longer in captivity. In zoos, they live for 20-25 years, while in natural conditions; they rarely live up to 10. The fundamental cause of death is hunger.

These animals have three pairs of eyelids, the first is for blinking, the second for protection during flight and attack, and the last is for sleeping.

Owls do not like to be touched. Stroking their feathers is even harmful because there is a water-repellent layer on top of them, which comes off from frequent touching. Owls can even bite when petted.

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Owls have many features. People have not yet thoroughly studied these creatures, which simply amaze with their vision, hearing, and the noiselessness of a natural predator. You can learn such birds all your life, but you will not know all the owl’s interesting things until the end.

Hazel Buckley
Hazel Buckley

About Hazel Buckley
Hazel is an animal enthusiast and educator who grew up on a farm which her parents owned in Ingogo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  The farm was situated right under the Majuba Mountains - the site where the Anglo-Boer War was fought. 

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