Support
Subscribe
Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.

DONATE

You are here

The Eyes of an Owl

The better to see you -- and that little mouse!

Peer into an owl's face – there is something almost human about its large, forward-facing eyes. The Great Gray Owl, which stands two feet tall and weighs 2 and 1/2 pounds, has eyes larger than those of most humans! Enormous eyes enable owls to see in near darkness. An owl's retinal anatomy is similar to that of cats, which rival owls in seeing in dim light. You can learn more about owls' eyesight from the World Owl Trust.
Support for BirdNote comes from Song Bird Coffee, offering bird-friendly organic shade-grown coffees for holiday giving. More at birdnote.org/songbird.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
The Eyes of an Owl

Written by Bob Sundstrom
 
This is BirdNote!
[Great Gray Owl hoots]
An owl’s gaze is uniquely penetrating. Peer into an owl’s face — there is something almost human about its large, forward-facing eyes.
Just how big are those eyes? They are astonishingly large in proportion to the size of the owl’s head. A Great Gray Owl, which stands two feet tall and weighs 2½ pounds, has eyes larger than those of most humans!
[Great Gray Owl hoots]
And while an owl’s eyes may look human, their capabilities are superhuman. Enormous eyes help owls to see in near darkness. An owl’s retinal anatomy is similar to that of cats, which rival owls in seeing in dim light.
Owls see well in daylight, too, but their color vision is probably very limited. And the evolution of such large eyes has required a behavioral compromise: an owl’s eyes are fixed in their sockets, so the bird must rotate its neck to look around.
One ornithologist has described owls’ heads as “little more than brains with raptorial beaks and the largest possible eyes and ears attached.”
[Great Gray Owl hoots]
To see a photo of this bird — and all we feature on the show— come to our website, BirdNote.org. Sign up for the podcast, too. I’m Michael Stein
###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by L.J. Peyton and D.S. Herr.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2012 Tune In to Nature.org     November 2017     Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# 110606GGOW1-2KPLU            owl-04b

* (Johnsgard 42) Quotation from Johnsgard, Paul A. North American Owls: Biology and Natural History. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988.

 

Sights & Sounds

Related topics:

Home
Shows
Galleries
More