Owls are terrifyingly skillful at the art of silent assassination, sneakily swooping in and snatching up their victims in the blink of an eye. With a series of helpful hunting adaptations and a voracious appetite, these devious night-time predators sometimes take on surprisingly large foes — and even other large birds like eagles aren’t out of bounds.
In mythology and folklore, owls are regarded as symbols of wisdom and intelligence. Unfortunately, this popular notion is misguided. They fall somewhere on the lower end of bird intelligence and are nowhere near as smart as crows or parrots, for example. But, what owls lack in “brains,” they make up for in brawn and a somewhat intimidating demeanor.
Unlike other smaller birds, which have eyes on the sides of their heads, an owl’s eyes are enormous and forward-facing. This allows the owl to hone in on prey with ease. It also makes them very creepy, especially when those eyes glisten in the light of an infrared camera.
In Israel, this eagle owl snatches a sleeping hawk (yes, a hawk) from a nest. You can see the ominous, ghostly eyes rapidly approaching from the darkness.
Speaking of snatching birds, it appears there isn’t a lot that owls fear. While the diet of most species mainly consists of small animals like mice or hare, they’ll eat pretty much anything, including other raptors, reptiles and even skunks.
Great horned owls, for example, weigh about 3-4 pounds on average, but they can apparently lift prey much heavier than themselves. Occasionally, they even take on bald eagles, which weigh around 10 pounds — though they mostly pluck young eaglets from their nests. That’s when they’re not bullying their parents and taking over their nests completely.
Thanks to extremely large and powerful talons, they can also deliver a death grip that instantly crushes the spines of their victims. Yikes!
On top of that, owls have the advantage of being creepily silent. When they flap their wings, they barely make a sound, so you’d never hear one if it flew above your head or perched behind you.
In the video below, watch (and listen to) the differences between the flight and sound patterns of a pigeon, a hawk, and an owl. The owl seems almost fantastical.
But, while owls might be silent fliers, when they want to get attention, they are just as loud as any other bird. In fact, they take this loudness a step further and have ensured that their call is one of the most haunting and horrifying shrieks in the animal kingdom. Don’t believe us? Listen to this shrieking barn owl.