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Owl photos are flooding the internet ahead of the Super Bowl. Here's why

Owls are predatory creatures who take over the internet each year around the Super Bowl. (pitipat/Adobe Stock) Owls are predatory creatures who take over the internet each year around the Super Bowl. (pitipat/Adobe Stock)
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Superb Owl. No wait, Super Bowl.

Too late.

Instead of Super Bowl information, one small typo later and your search results are filled with owl content instead. And we’d like to encourage you to lean into the error. Because owls truly are “superb.”

These birds are a far cry from football, but over the years the trend has gained significant popularity. So much so, that many people flood the internet with photos of owls before the Super Bowl each year. (And you know what a gathering of owls is called, right? A parliament.)

This internet phenomenon puts these feathery creatures in the spotlight, which ultimately aids awareness, said Matt Williams, director of conservation with the Indiana chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

“I say anything that helps get the message out about the importance of conservation is a good thing,” he said.

A stone-cold predator

Owls are quite interesting. Some people think they are innocent balls of fluff, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, said Williams via email.

“Owls are voracious predators that hunt mostly at night using a very keen sense of hearing to help locate their prey,” he added.

Their disc-shaped face directs sound to their ears, which allows them to hear the quietest noises, Williams said. Their feathers are designed to make them almost completely silent when they fly, a useful trick for sneaking up on their prey, he added.

Most owls are content to feast on small mammals such as mice and shrews, said Seth Magle, director of the Urban Wildlife Institute at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Some larger owls such as the great horned owl can snatch up rabbits, skunks or even other owls, Williams said.

See an owl in the wild

Your experience with owls doesn’t have be limited to the internet. Communities around the United States have hosted educational events in previous years about the nocturnal animals.

The Leslie Science & Nature Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is set to host an owl event on Sunday.

The centre will have resident owls on display, and people can dissect owl pellets, which are the undigested parts of their meal that they regurgitate.

Why not venture outdoors this weekend so you can get to know these fascinating creatures? It’ll be a hoot.

The burrowing owl marches to the beat of its own drum. (Adobe Stock)

Now meet some superb owls

There are over 250 owl species, and we’d like to introduce you to some of our favourites.

Many people think all owls make a hooting noise, but that is not the case. The great grey owl does not hoot, Williams said, but rather makes a series of “hoos” in a low pitch.

The short-eared owl can be found in prairies and wetlands, unlike most other owls that live in forests, Williams said.

Barred owls are vocal birds that can often be heard making the traditional hooting noise, said Charles Eldermire, Bird Cams project leader at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Great horned owls are known for their iconic ear tufts and catlike eyes, Eldermire said.

The burrowing owl lives its life the opposite of most owls. Rather than being active at night and living in trees, this bird spends the day awake and makes its home on the ground, Magle said.

This report is updated from a 2022 article.

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