Owls are a world-wide order of birds known as Strigiformes and the 216 species range in size from the tiny, sparrow size,
Elf Owl to the Eurasian Eagle Owl which has a wing span of nearly 2 metres and can weigh almost 5kg. They are a group of
predatory birds, characterised by large forward facing eyes surrounded by a facial disk of short stiff feathers and an
upright posture. A large proportion of owls are nocturnal. They occupy an equivalent niche to the diurnal birds of prey
such as hawks, falcons, eagles and buzzards but they are not actually related. The resemblance to the day time birds of prey
is an example of convergent evolution, where both groups have independently evolved several features such as the hooked beak
and talons. Owls are all very closely related to each other, much more so than, for instance, the diurnal raptors which
include birds as dissimilar as vultures, secretary birds, falcons etc. Even so, owls are separated into two fairly distinct
The first family is the Tytonidae which is made up of 17 species of barn and grass owl, and one species of Bay Owl. Members of this family are quite distinct from other owls and possess several differences. The most obvious external ones being the heart-shaped rather than round facial disk, the longer skull and beak, longer legs, longer and more pointed wings and a forked tail. Grass Owls come from Africa, South East Asia and Australia and are very similar to Barn Owls but have longer legs.
All of the other 198 owls are in the family Strigidae.
The collective noun for owls is a “Parliament”.
Owl Habitat and the Law in the UK
The Barn Owl is protected in the same way as any other wild bird, in that it is illegal to injure, kill or take one from the wild. It also has added protection in that, during the breeding season, it is illegal to disturb the nest sites. That means that if a bird is actually sitting on eggs or there are unfledged babies in the nest site it is illegal to disturb them in any way. If that nest site is in a building that is going to be developed, building work has to be delayed until the young have fledged.
|World Owl Trust
Registered Charity Number: 1107529
Limited Company Number: 5296745
The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.