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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2000

Death Comes by Night

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

No wonder people used to be scared of owls! Walking at night through a wild forest was bad enough without spooky hoots and screeches coming from way up in the trees.

People still fear the dark, but we’ve come to know and respect the owl. When other raptors bed down for the night, the owls come out to hunt among the darkened fields and forests.

To see and catch their prey, God has given owls special eyes, ears, and feathers. Look at this list of hunting tools:

·         Big eyes-all the better to see you with. For their body size, owls have some of the biggest eyes around. Their pupils can open wide to let in as much light as possible.

·         Night vision Goggles. The owl has plenty of light-gathering cells at the back of its eyes. It can see three or four times better in the dark than humans.

·         Range-finding binoculars. Our eyes take in a lot of the world at a time. The owl’s eyes are fixed and face straight ahead. This lets and owl get an excellent fix on the distance to its target. To make up for eyes that don’t move, the owl has a super flexible neck. But no, the owl can’t spin its head all the way around.

·         Big ears- all the better to hear you with. Large ear openings pick up more sound. But don’t be fooled by tufts over their ears. They are just for show.

·         Passive sonar. Having one ear higher than the other helps the bird fix the exact location of the sound.. Even in total darkness, the owl can hear and catch its food. And the ears are set wide apart, which gives a more accurate sense of distance.

·         Directional microphones. Soundmen at football games use these to hear what players are saying on the field. Owls use them too. Each eye sits in a big round disk that funnels sounds to the ear. This is what gives the face of the owl its classic shape.

·         Stealth-fighter wings. The edges of the feathers are fuzzy. This muffles the sound of air passing over the wings. Also, the wings are large so the owl can swoop silently on its prey.

All of these tools work together, and most of them are unique to the owl. It’s hard to imagine how “nature” could have done all this, Only God could have created the owl (Genesis 1:20-23).

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