True owl

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True owl
Eastern Screech Owl.jpg
Eastern screech owl
Scientific classification e
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Strigiformes
Family:Strigidae
Vigors, 1825
Genera

some 25, see text

Synonyms

Striginae sensu Sibley & Ahlquist

 
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True owl
Eastern Screech Owl.jpg
Eastern screech owl
Scientific classification e
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Strigiformes
Family:Strigidae
Vigors, 1825
Genera

some 25, see text

Synonyms

Striginae sensu Sibley & Ahlquist

The true owls or typical owls (family Strigidae) are one of the two generally accepted families of owls, the other being the barn owls (Tytonidae). The Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy unites the Caprimulgiformes with the owl order; here, the typical owls are a subfamily Strigidae. This is unsupported by more recent research (see Cypselomorphae for details), but the relationships of the owls in general are still unresolved. This large family comprises around 189 living species in 25 genera. The typical owls have a cosmopolitan distribution and are found on every continent except Antarctica.

Morphology[edit]

Cross sectioned great grey owl specimen showing the extent of the body plumage, Zoological Museum, Copenhagen

While typical owls (hereafter referred to simply as owls) vary greatly in size, with the smallest species, the elf owl, being a hundred times smaller than the largest, the Eurasian eagle-owl and Blakiston's fish owl, owls generally share an extremely similar body plan.[1] They tend to have large heads, short tails, cryptic plumage and round facial discs around the eyes. The family is generally arboreal (with a few exceptions like the burrowing owl) and obtain their food on the wing. The wings are large, broad, rounded and long. Like other birds of prey many owl species exhibit reverse sexual dimorphism in size, where females are larger than males (as opposed to the more typical situation in birds where males are larger).[2]

Because of their nocturnal habits they tend not to exhibit sexual dimorphism in their plumage. The feathers are soft and the base of each is downy, allowing for silent flight. The toes and tarsus are feathered in some species, and more so in species at higher latitudes.[3] Numerous species of owl in the genus Glaucidium and the northern hawk-owl have eye patches on the backs of their heads, apparently to convince other birds they are being watched at all times. Numerous nocturnal species have ear-tufts, feathers on the sides of the head that are thought to have a camouflage function, breaking up the outline of a roosting bird. The feathers of the facial disc are arranged in order to increase sound delivered to the ears. Hearing in owls is highly sensitive and the ears are asymmetrical allowing the owl to localise a sound. In addition to hearing owls have massive eyes relative to their body size. Contrary to popular belief, however, owls cannot see well in extreme dark and are able to see fine in the day.[1]

Behaviour[edit]

Owls are generally nocturnal and spend much of the day roosting. They are often perceived as tame since they will allow people to approach quite closely before taking flight, but they are instead attempting to avoid detection. The cryptic plumage and inconspicuous locations adopted are an effort to avoid predators and mobbing by small birds.

Systematics[edit]

Skeleton of Strigidae. Muséum de Toulouse

The nearly 200 extant species are assigned to a number of genera, which are in taxonomic order:

Recently extinct[edit]

Late Quaternary prehistoric extinctions[edit]

Fossil record[edit]

Placement unresolved:

The supposed fossil heron "Ardea" lignitum (Late Pliocene of Germany) was apparently a strigid owl, possibly close to Bubo.[7] The Early–Middle Eocene genus Palaeoglaux from west-central Europe is sometimes placed here, but given its age it is probably better considered its own family for the time being.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Marks, J. S.; Cannings, R. J. and Mikkola, H. (1999) "Family Strigidae (Typical Owls)". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A. & Sargatal, J. (eds.) (1999). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 5: Barn-Owls to Hummingbirds. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 84-87334-25-3
  2. ^ Earhart, Caroline M. and Johnson, Ned K. (1970). "Size Dimorphism and Food Habits of North American Owls". Condor 72 (3): 251–264. doi:10.2307/1366002. 
  3. ^ Kelso L & Kelso E (1936). "The Relation of Feathering of Feet of American Owls to Humidity of Environment and to Life Zones". Auk 53 (1): 51–56. doi:10.2307/4077355. 
  4. ^ Olson, p. 131
  5. ^ Feduccia, J. Alan; Ford, Norman L. (1970). "Some birds of prey from the Upper Pliocene of Kansas". Auk 87 (4): 795–797. doi:10.2307/4083714. 
  6. ^ Sánchez Marco, Antonio (2004). "Avian zoogeographical patterns during the Quaternary in the Mediterranean region and paleoclimatic interpretation". Ardeola 51 (1): 91–132. 
  7. ^ Olson, p. 167

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]