While eagles, hawks, and falcons are the birds of prey we see soaring through the unlit sky, a different bird takes the rope when the sun sets, and the night settles it.
Owls are excellent night hunters and have a lot of physical capabilities that make them so.
Their most important hunting tool is their sharp talons, which they use to crush their prey’s bones and knead their victims into dinner.
Apart from their talons, they have specialized wings to stay quiet in the dead of the night, asymmetrical for triangulation location of prey, and so on.
But there is one characteristic that makes owls a more effective hunter: their eyes.
Huge and bowl-like, it is their most iconic feature, and while their prey fears them because of it, we absolutely love their huge saucer eyes!
But within the almost 230 species of owls in the world, there are some that stand out with the size of their eyes more than others, and today we are going to take a look at these big-eyed buddies!
5 Owls With Big Eyes
The Great Horned Owl
Starting with a fan favorite, the great horned owl is a large owl endemic to the Americas but has a much wider range because of its high adaptability.
One of the earliest nesting birds in North America, they lay their eggs weeks and even months before other raptorial birds!
Their diet mainly consists of small mammals like hare, rabbits, mice, and moles, but they will also feed on virtually anything they can physically overpower like birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, etc.
The great horned owl sports primarily brown, golden, and black plumage, designed for camouflage.
Their naming characteristic, their “horns” are actually tufts of feathers, called plumicorns, that stand up from the top of their head, and give them the most striking appearance.
Their eyes are a stunning factor, as their ratios are completely fascinating to think about.
For instance, if these owls were as big as humans, their eyes would be the size of oranges! Their eyes also add to their striking appearance, with a golden yellow eye and a darker iris.
Blakiston’s Fish Owl
Another tufted owl, Blakiston’s fish owl takes the cake for the largest owl species existing in the world right now!
Endemic to China, Japan, and the Russian far East, these birds primarily inhabit riparian forests with large, old trees that they use for nesting.
They primarily feed on a variety of aquatic prey, including fishes like trout, catfish, pike, and salmon.
They primarily sport an all-around brown plumage that is heavily streaked with darker colors on the top that lighten as it moves to their undersides.
They have a white throat and collar region and go up to incredible sizes. In one weighing, the males came up to an average of a whopping 8 pounds while the females went further up to 10! These owls have large eyes with yellow irises.
The Eurasian eagle-owl also shares the same tufts as the other two on the list, but theirs is positioned on their ears instead.
Native to and residing in Eurasia, these birds often inhabit rocky mountainous areas with plenty of vegetation or shrubbery.
They primarily feed on small mammals like rabbits, hares, and moles, but also eat the occasional bird-like woodpeckers, herons, and other birds.
Their plumage is primarily a brownish-gray sort of coloring that is characterized by heavy streaking with a dark, black-brown color.
They have a distinctive facial disk that is a tawny buff and is also densely speckled. Their striking eyes are given that quality because of their orange irises, which can sometimes be a reddish blood-orange color in European varieties.
The snowy owl is a large owl of the true owl family with a stunning, almost all-white plumage that blends in beautifully with its snowy white background.
They are endemic to the Arctic regions of North America, breeding mostly on the tundra.
They have a diet that consists of primarily small mammals as well as other water birds, but they are opportunistic birds and feed on the occasional carrion.
Males tend to be pure white all along, while females have infrequent striking and spotting.
Adult females get more invariably spotted as compared to like-age males. Their heads are relatively small when compared to their bodies, and have large bright yellow eyes.
Great Gray Owl
And last but certainly not least is the great gray owl, with features as grand as its name.
Distributed across the Northern Hemisphere, they primarily inhabit woodlands and shrubberies within their range, often nesting in old abandoned nests of other rapturous birds.
They are carnivorous like other raptors and feed on small mammals like voles, shrews, mice, rats, squirrels, weasels, and so on.
They are the longest of owls with a height of about 34 inches and have an impressive wingspan of about 5 feet.
They have a very distinctive facial disk that carries to the edges of their head, which makes their stunningly large eyes appear normal-sized on their heads.
They have eyes that are much larger than most humans, and what they are capable of with those eyes could be claimed as superhuman!
Why Do Owls Have Such Big Eyes And Pupils?
A simple look at their hunting habits and comparing them with their eye anatomy will give you the answer to this.
Owls are nocturnal hunters, perusing through the sky in search of their midnight snack or meal.
Their big eyes help them see better in low-light conditions, which coupled with the reflective properties of the facial rings around their eyes, make them good hunters.
While owls are limited with their field of vision, only being 110 degrees, they make up for it by the extreme flexibility of their necks, which can turn a whopping 270 degrees!
Thus the big eyes of owls absorb more light for the receptors, which in turn increases their amount of sight.
As the retina absorbs more light, so do their pupils become larger allowing them to have proper sight of the nightlife in front of them.
How Big Is An Owl Eye?
Owl eyes are pretty big and you will be astonished to see just how much difference lies between their ratios and ours.
While we can say with a certain amount of confidence that our eyeballs contribute a very negligible amount to our total weight, owls certainly cannot!
In many species of owls, in fact, their eyes make for about 5 percent of their body weight.
Another size comparison that will help you visualize thighs better is: Imagine that owls were human-sized for a minute, then their eyes would be as big as orange – almost five times as big as ours.
So that was all about these hooting night dwellers and their big bright eyes! If you have ever witnessed an owl up close, you know just how magnificent their eyes are, and we hope we have taught you something new about them today!
Thank you for reading!
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