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Hot on the Trail: Owl Anatomy

In keeping with theme of last weeks "Snowy Owl" posting, I believe this Hot on the Trail should address one of the oldest myths known about these creatures...

Can owls spin their heads all the way around?


Even if you have never seen an owl in person, you've probably seen them in books or movies where the owl is looking straight ahead, and then it rotates its head all the way around. It seems to rotate in a full circle. The truth is, owls can rotate their heads a lot - most species can make it about 270 degrees! However, they can't quite rotate their heads all the way around, which would be 360 degrees.


Have you ever wondered how it is physically possible for an owl to turn its head so far around? A study from researchers at John Hopkins University found that there are several attributes unique to an owls neck that allow the birds to turn their head in almost a complete circle. The limited eye movement in owls makes it so they have to turn their heads to see anything around them. Owls have twice as many bones in their necks than humans, also their bone cavities and blood vessels are uniquely capable of allowing blood flow to take alternate routes when they rotate their heads.


-Ranger Rachel



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