Why do owls hunt at night?

Most animals hunt when they are at an advantage. The case is similar with owls, who find it advantageous to hunt at night. Centuries of evolution have gifted owls with the right skills to hunt by night. Typical prey includes invertebrates and small mammals.

Owls are nocturnal creatures to start with. They are found roosting in the day, while the rest of the animal kingdom is working! At night, the owl gets into its own. With excellent night vision, they are able to see through what we call ‘darkness’. Their large eyes can take in more light that the relatively smaller ones of other animals. They are silent hunters, and their wings are particularly quiet. The forward edge of the feather is smooth and disrupts the air flow in a manner that eliminates the flapping sound of the wings.

Owls have amazing auditory senses. They can locate the faintest sounds with great accuracy. It is said that owls create a ‘sound map’ of the territory they hunt, thereby remembering places by sound rather than visuals. Also, the owl knows its territory well. Their hunting grounds are carefully chosen and well scouted beforehand. The familiarity with the environment plays a great part in the success of the hunt. Often owls hunt from a perch, and many soon establish a ‘favorite’, depending on where they get most of their food from. Continued hunting is therefore a means of practice for them! Coupled with their good night vision, they gain a considerable edge over their prey.

Owls therefore use their skills to hunt successfully at night. Most of the features that act as advantages for them (large eyes, auditory senses) in the night may become disadvantages if used in the day. Hence, they are primarily nocturnal hunters.

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