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An ode to the owl

By Helen Pentith  //  Wed 28th May 2014

Here at Escrick Park we’re extremely lucky to boast a wealth of wildlife right on our doorstep. From Fallow and Roe deer to numerous species of bird, as you hike through our park and woodland you’ll discover all sorts of living things. If you’re very lucky, and you listen very carefully, you might even be able to encounter one of our favourite animals of all – the owl. There are a number of different breeds of owl living in the woods of Escrick Park Estate, including the barn owl, tawny owl and little owl. While we often hear them more than we see them, there’s nothing like listening to their hoots throughout the day and night to remind you that you’re amidst the real British countryside. Just take a look at these four reasons for why we love them so much…

Impressive flexibility

Owls vary drastically in size and appearance, but they all have one thing in common: the ability to turn their heads 270 degrees. Don’t try this at home, because in order for them to be able to turn their heads so far around their necks contain 14 separate vertebrae, rather than the usual seven found in most birds. Owls have this ability because it makes them better hunters. Owls have forward-facing vision and their eyes barely move in their sockets, so without flexible necks they would struggle to turn around quickly enough to spot their prey or take in a threat.

Binocular vision

Owls have very unusual eyes. Preternaturally large and round, their eyeballs are almost completely immobile and are actually tube shaped to enable binocular vision. Owls’ binocular vision helps them to focus on prey and boosts their depth perception, while their large pupil size provides them with incredible night vision, which is why they are so active when the sun goes down. Night-time is the perfect time for owls to hunt their prey. Strangely enough, owls also have three eyelids. One lid comes down from the top when they blink, one comes up from the bottom when they sleep, and the third slides across diagonally and is actually a thin film of tissue used to keep their eyes clean.

Silent predators

You might think owls are quite noisy, but you only hear them when they want to be heard. They are actually experts and keeping extremely quiet in order to catch their prey. It’s not just their impeccable vision that makes owls such fantastic hunters, it’s their hearing, too, that enables them to pinpoint their prey’s every move. To stay so quiet during their hunt, owls have special hook shapes on the front of their wing feathers that act as airflow silencers, while fraying on the trailing edges offers silent flight to allow them to swoop in undetected.

Baby owls

Baby owls are called owlets and are born without the ability to fly, their feathers not yet fully developed. Owlets do not even open their eyes until about 12 days after they have been born, which means they are extremely fragile. However, they are very well camouflaged and their mother will look after them until they have fledged, keeping them warm under her wing until they are big and strong enough to fly – a process that can take up to 60 days. Not all owlets survive as they must compete against older siblings for food, and if one chick falls behind in its development, it will likely never catch up. It is, as always, a case of survival of the fittest.

You see, there are numerous reasons to love owls. They are just such fascinating creatures, and we feel lucky to have so many of these birds living around Escrick Park. If you’re keen to come and explore our wildlife or to see if you can spot one of our feathery residents yourself, why not come along for a garden tour or visit our stunning rural properties and consider buying a holiday home of your own? Explore our website or get in touch with the team today to discuss coming to visit Escrick Park.

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