Montag, 27. Januar 2014

Owl or bird of prey – how to tell them apart


Welcome to another skull post of mine. I’m sorry for the delay, I’m still very busy with work and different art projects. But here we go! Some bird skulls look like each other or are very similar. Especially skulls of song birds are a pain for me, but I know the characteristics of an owl and a bird of prey skull. It isn’t always easy, but if you read this post you should be able to tell these skulls apart. Please read on after the cut.

Before you start looking at something you should know a few things about the animals itself. Both, owls and birds of prey are predators and eat other animals, so both of them have a hard bended beak. A typical sign for “meat eater” so you can tell them apart of song birds.

From the left to the right: Long-eared owl and buzzard.
Owls often hunt by night or twilight, so they need good eyes. I dare to say that owls need better eyes than birds of prey, because the latter is used to hunt in daylight. So, both skulls have big eye sockets as well. BUT! If you find a big tube-like sclerotic ring (a ring made of bone pads which reinforces the eye of the bird) by the orbit than it’s definitely an owl skull. Remember, every bird owns such a sclerotic ring, but the eyes of owls have a very high focal distance, so their sclerotic rings are always tube-like. Unfortunately I don’t have a good example.

Oviraptor skull. Even some dinosaurs had these sclerotic rings.
The easiest way to tell an owl skull apart from a bird of prey skull is the size of the ear. Owls need very good ears and they are slightly dislocated on each side. That feature helps the owl to find out the exact pose of their prey.


 I can’t help myself but the whole shape of an owl skull looks different to me.

From the left to the right: Buzzard and long-eared owl.
From the left to the right: Long-eared owl and buzzard.
From the left to the right: Long-eared owl and buzzard.
Birds of prey often have these typically “evil eyes”. The supraocular bone is the reason for that. Often this bone has gone lost if you find a bird of prey skull, because it’s very small.
If you know the name of that bone, please tell me.


Well, as non-native English speaker it wasn’t easy to write these things down, but I hope you still learned a bit by now. Maybe there are more differences about these skulls, but I think I named you the most obvious ones. If you have any more information please feel free to tell me.


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