15 Things We Didn't Know About Baby Owls
How can something so cute look so ferocious at the same time? Baby owls are masters at delivering the stink eye, and these pictures prove it.
Learn all about these adorable, angry avian animals below.
I’m Not Fat, I’m Fluffy
Baby owls can storm out of a room better than a just-grounded teenager. Their sheer fluffiness, however, takes the intensity down by several notches.
Their big round eyes are framed by thick white or gray down, with a pointed beak peaking through as a reminder that they are, indeed, ruthless predators.
Who's a good ruthless predator? You are.
Seriously. So. Fluffy.
Baby owls are called owlets throughout their intensely fluffy phase. When their adult plumage begins to come in, they're considered juveniles, and then just ordinary owls.
You can call them owlets, but we won't judge you if you continue calling them baby owls.
I mean, look at them. They're obviously babies.
God, Mom. You’re So Annoying
Owls are a cute kind of chunky. They're big birds, reaching over two feet tall when fully grown. Their babies, however, are teeny tiny at birth. When they hatch from their small, white eggs using their sharp little egg tooth, they're only two or three inches tall. Like most birds of prey, they grow rapidly, but they're extremely delicate in the first few days after hatching.
If they make it past the first week of life, owlets are likely to reach maturity without a hitch. That is, unless they're targeted by a predator while their mom is away from the nest, like a raccoon or another bird of prey.
Let's just not think about that, OK? OK.
Never Mind, I Take It Back. Now Give Me Food Immediately
Feed meeeee! Like human babies, owlets rely on their mothers for food in the early days. Owls are mainly carnivorous, enjoying a diet of small rodents, mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and insects, depending on the size of the species.
Mother owls catch prey and bring it back to the nest to share with their owlets. Since owls swallow their prey whole, Mama Owl usually tears the food into bite-sized pieces that their pint-sized owlets can easily swallow.
Awkward Phases Are a Thing for Owls, Too
Let's be honest. Some baby owls are adorable, but most of them go through a phase in which they look straight-up weird. Barn owls, in particular, develop a longer face as they mature, which looks exceptionally out of place in contrast to their fluffy owlet physiques. It takes a little while for their bodies to catch up to their faces.
In the meantime, they have an awkward mix of fluffy down and grownup feathers. It usually takes until they're about 14 weeks old for them to fully transform into smaller versions of an adult owl.
Before that, they're stuck looking like they're still experimenting with makeup and identifying their personal style.
I Can Hunt. Totally. Who’s Hunt?
Feel like a bad parent? Don't. You're way nicer than a mother owl.
Owls don't give their babies much guidance when it comes to hunting for food. Once juvenile owls begin learning to fly and exploring the area surrounding their nest, their hunting instincts kick in. This happens between the ages of 2 and 3 months, right around when their parents start bringing them fewer meals.
At first, they practice "play-hunting," stalking and pouncing on literally anything that moves. If you see a baby owl attack a blade of grass, now you know why.
Paint Me Like One of Your French Girls
As mentioned, owls grow fast. They leave the nest gradually, venturing further and further away until they're fully independent. This is called nest dispersal. By the time they're able to fly, they're called fledglings, and they're fully capable of hunting all on their own.
It takes a little more time, however, before they start engaging in other, ahem, adult owl behaviors. Owlets typically reach sexual maturity between the ages of 5 months and 2 years, depending on their size and species.
Hoo Are You?
Owl? What owl? Owls are shy creatures who are rarely spotted in the wild. Most species avoid people whenever possible, and baby owls are even more reclusive.
If you do manage to catch a glimpse, take a picture, because you might never see one again.
See the Prey, Be the Prey
Who needs gravity when you could have wings? And check out those talons. As cute as owlets are, they grow into expert mouse assassins. Most owl species are nocturnal. They sleep during the day, and once night falls, it's go time.
Some owl species consider that too mainstream, however. Snowy owls live in a climate with very short nights, so they hunt around the clock. Barred owls, on the other hand, prefer to hunt at dawn and dusk. All of them look pretty adorable while doing it. It must be the big, round eyes.
Puppy Dog Eye Level: Lethal
Owls are good at lots of things. Breaking hearts, for example. Controlling the mice population. Flying in dead silence.
Other things, however, are not their forte. Most birds are amazing at nest building. Seems like a standard bird skill to have, but owls absolutely stink at building nests.
Owls often take over old nests from other animals, or nest in hollow trees or burrows left by other animals. Meanwhile, barn owls lay eggs atop years of old owl pellets. The congealed remnants of their prey they weren't able to digest. Charming.
Maybe If I Pretend to Be Asleep, She’ll Go Away
Baby owls are downright dramatic, and the way they sleep is proof. Their heads are so big in proportion to the rest of their bodies that they can't hold it up while they sleep.
Instead, they slump over, sprawling across branches face down. They don't fall off thanks to their strong talons, but they resemble tiny college students spring-breaking in Miami until they grow into their heads.
Interestingly, owls have a REM sleep stage, just like people. That's the stage humans dream in, so it's possible that owlets have dreams, too.
Squishmallow Mode Engaged
Owls look round, but they're very lanky under all the feathers. When their legs are stretched out, they measure up to half of the total length of the owl.
It varies by species, of course, but we were under the impression that owls had tiny legs.
Why did no one tell us?
Baby Owls Have Mastered the Nap Life
It's hard to believe that something so soft and sleepy swallows rodents whole. Since owls are nocturnal, they're usually asleep when we're awake, even in captivity.
They sleep about 10-12 hours a night, or even more when they're babies. Impressively, they do so while perched on the tops of trees.
If you have a fear of heights, being reincarnated as an owl might be your worst nightmare.
And Also Begrudging Snuggles
Owls are mostly solitary creatures, but there are some exceptions. Burrowing owls and tawny owls flock together in small groups. They also sometimes huddle together for warmth. Others, like screech owls, prefer to live mostly on their own.
Screech owls, however, mate for life, returning to the same partner year after year. Still cute, even without the snuggles.
So Angry. So Cute.
As round and soft as owls look, they're terrible pets. Yes, Harry Potter lied to you (we were disappointed too). Owls are destructive. Their hunting instinct and sharp claws wreak havoc on furniture, toys and pretty much everything else.
They don't particularly like human company, either. Being hugged stresses them out, and getting scratched by those talons isn't exactly a walk in the park. They're also extremely messy, and feeding them is another story.
As dreamy as having an owlet is, stick with parakeets, cockatiels, parrots or pretty much any other bird, and leave the owl-keeping to the pros.
Learn more about wild and wonderful bird species below: