With over 250 different species of owls alive today, they are one of the most misunderstood animals in the world.
From silent flight to piercing vision, much of the owl folklore that exists today comes from the observation that has, until recently, only been half-understood.
Today, we’re breaking down three popular owl myths and where they come from. Then, we’re discussing the owl facts behind these legends. Keep reading to uncover the truth about these mysterious creatures!
Myth: An Owl Will Wring Its Neck Following You With Its Eyes
This myth originates in England and explains how to make an owl wring its own neck.
According to the legend, if you walk around a tree that an owl is roosting in, its eyes will follow you until the owl has wrung its neck.
As gruesome a thought as this is, it is simply not true. Although owls track things they find interest in, they are intelligent and have never exhibited this behavior on record.
Fact: Owls Can Turn Their Heads Completely Around, Depending on the Starting Point
Owls may not wring their neck trying to follow you, but they might watch you.
Depending on the starting point, owls are capable of rotating their necks 360 degrees, and in some cases even more.
Starting in the front, they can turn their heads 270 degrees, moving it from front to back and then on to the side. Starting in the back, they can turn their heads 360 degrees, around the front and to the back again on the other side.
What’s more, their maximum range of motion is 540 degrees starting from the side, making a complete circle around the back, and ending on the opposite side.
Check out for nests and cameras that you can attach to your trees to get a glimpse of this yourself!
Myth: Owls are Bad Luck and a Sign of Death
Not at all! Owls are typically associated with nighttime because many species are nocturnal and that’s when people see and hear them most. People’s fear of the night is then misdirected onto owls themselves, which are not bad luck at all.
In fact, they’re one of the most common birds in the world, so if everyone who came across one died after, we would have a big problem.
Fact: Some Cultures Believe Owls Are Signs of Something Greater
Some cultures indeed believe owls are sacred, a sign of witchcraft, or even a sign of death.
The Australian Aborigines believe that owls are the spirits of women. Native American tribes of present-day Canada believed that owls carried the souls of deceased tribe members.
In Ancient Greece and Italy, people believed that witches could turn into owls. In other cultures, owls signified the proximity of a witch or were thought to carry messages between witches.
Myth: Eating Owl Eggs and Eyes Can Give You Better Eyesight
Wrong again! This myth came from England, where it was believed that cooking owl eggs into a powder and mixing it with liquid would transfer the owl’s vision to the human.
In India, a similar legend existed that encouraged people to consume owl eyes to improve their eyesight.
Fact: Owls Have Exceptional Eyesight, Which Humans Admire
While eating an owl’s body parts won’t give you better vision, they do boast some of the best eyes in the animal kingdom. Along with hawks, these birds of prey have exceptionally keen eyesight which allows them to see clearly for miles.
An owl’s hearing abilities are similarly impressive, serving them especially well at night.
However, the downside to such spectacular long-range vision is far-sightedness, meaning they struggle to see objects up close.
Think About These Owl Facts the Next Time You Hear a ‘Who’
Like much of the legends that exist today, most myths about owls are rooted in the truth that was either wrongfully explained or misdirected.
Now that you know the truth around owl facts, you’ll know not to worry the next time you hear a “Who!”
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