Do Owls Without Feathers Actually Exist? Everything You Need To Know

One of the most characteristic and recognizable traits of an owl is its plumage and feathering, which plays many roles in its survival and general functioning. 

Most species of owls have plumage fit for camouflage purposes that are combinations of brown, black, tan, gray, and white to blend into the trees and mountainous regions these birds most often call their home. 

Their feathers play other parts too! As opposed to the swift swoops of most raptor birds, owls rely on being stealthy and silent to catch their prey unaware. 

But Do Owls Without Feathers Exist? We hear you ask

All of this came to question when a Twitter user in 2017 quenched her curiosity about featherless owls and in turn horrified herself and the rest of the internet! 

It raised questions of whether there are featherless owls or birds, whether those were actually owls or some weird genetic experiments, what other animals have featherless versions, and so on! 

So here we are, to settle the questions once and for all and without further ado, let us get into it!

Do Owls Without Feathers Actually Exist? What Do They Look Like?

The short answer is no they do not, though this certainly does not invalidate the now-viral photo one bit! 

Even as weak and frail hatchlings that cannot hold their heads up properly, owls are covered by a natal down, which is a primary outer covering of fluffy feathers that keeps the babies protected from the elements.

As they grow, so do these feathers grow and molt and get replaced. So no, featherless owls are thankfully not a real thing!

But the photo that circulated the internet was actually a pretty accurate depiction of what a barn owl would look without their glorious, toasty outer protection, experts say! 

The deputy director of the World Bird Sanctuary also confirmed the claim while also remarking on how this is a testament to how much the plumage and feathering of owls change their appearance. 

The infamous photograph shows a thin and frail alien-like creature, with long feet, and characteristic talons. 

The most unsettling part of the photo is the owl’s skeleton, which paired with the elongated rigid shape and the deep black eyes, gives the owl a truly terrifying look.

What Was The Internet’s Reaction?


Once the initial Twitter user, Dana Schwartz posted the first photo remarking on how deeply unsettling her google search ended up being, the internet took care of the rest of it. 

Most people were likely deeply ruffled (unlike the featherless owl!) while many others took to making jokes and relatable comedy to ease the uneasiness. 

Once the fire was set, it spread all around as many Twitter users then tapped away at their google search bars to see what other grotesque, extra-terrestrial-looking beings they could find, and the results did not disappoint! 

From the wise-looking but too-naked rabbits to the monstrously terrifying naked bear, people lost their minds perusing the internet for other featherless and hairless creatures.

Do Featherless Birds Or Animals Exist At All?

As with most things in nature, nothing is truly impossible and that is the case with featherless birds and hairless animals! 

Rhea, an adopted lovebird, was one such featherless bird. Rhea suffered from a common disease affecting the parrot family called PBFD, or Psittacine beak and feather disease. 

This is a disease that affects the bird’s hair follicles, destroying the already grown feathers, like with rhea when she was 2 years old, and then preventing the feathers from growing back ever again. 

More severe forms of this disease can affect talons and beaks as well, but rhea only had the feathered variety.

Another frightening apparition shared in the social media frenzy was of a hairless bear, and we are here to tell you that is a real family of bears. 

Living in the German Leipzig zoo, the bear came about as a result of some weird genetic defect that spread about in the zoo, 

As they are under the care of captivity, this defect in appearance should not render them too much trouble, except maybe the occasional chill!

Do Baby And Juvenile Owls Have Feathers?

Yes, both of them do! Baby owls have natal down, a set of fluffy outer covering that keeps them protected from the environment. 

This fluffy covering is usually some variation of white, gray, cream, golden, or brown, with scruffy stripping or mottling spread throughout.

Though the babies are tiny as hatchlings, they can almost double the size between days 14 and 28. 

As they grow, the thick fluffy downy feathers will give way to more adult-like sleeker feathers, though the down stays for about 2 months. 

The juveniles generally have scruffier and rougher-looking feathers as compared to the adult, usually in varying shades of brown that lighten up as they approach sexual maturity.

In Conclusion

We hope that finally settles everything! The internet was taken by storm with this phenomenon, and it is certainly a fascinating thing to know almost half of what we see when we look at an owl is their feathers, and their bodies are actually very lean and lanky. 

We hope we have cleared all your doubts and taught you something new today!

Thank you for reading!

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