Superb owls

From extra-fluffy fliers to chatty chirpers, these owls are utterly outstanding.

Snowy owl

Snowy owls can stay cozy in minus 20°F in their home in the northern regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Their extremely thick feathers make snowies one of the world’s heaviest owls, weighing about as much as three basketballs. Too hot? Snowy owls can hold out their wings away from their bodies and pant to cool down.

Barn owl

Listen up! Scientists think barn owls, which live on all continents except Antarctica, might have the best hearing of any bird. Stiff feathers on the bird’s face help funnel sound waves created by prey into its ear canals. Based on the angle at which the sound waves hit its ears, the owl figures out a path to its snack—even in total darkness.

Tawny owl chicks

Tawny owl chicks have extremely protective parents. Both moms and dads chase away anything that comes too close to the nest using their razor-sharp talons. Researchers studying baby tawny owls, which live in Europe, North Africa, and Asia, even wear protective clothing, goggles, and helmets.

Elf owl

The world’s smallest owl, the elf owl of North America, is no pushover. About the size of a soda can, this feisty bird uses its clawed feet to catch scorpions. First it removes the venomous stinger; then it passes the prey back and forth between its feet to prepare to swallow the meal.

Blakiston’s fish-owl

The wingspan of the Blakiston’s fish-owl can stretch six and a half feet long—that’s longer than an average adult is tall. Living in parts of Russia, China, and Japan, sometimes this owl zooms toward the surface of a river to scoop up fish in its talons. Other times, it stands in shallow water, waiting to nab fish swimming by.

Burrowing owls

Burrowing owl nest in holes abandoned by prairie dogs and ground squirrels in North, Central, and South America. Once they move in, the owls line the entrance of the burrow with mammal droppings. Why? The dung attracts tasty insects.

Barred owl

Barred owls are some of the chattiest owls around—and they’re more likely to be heard in the daytime than other owls. In parts of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, you can listen for their trills, whinnies, coos, screeches, hisses, and hoots. Birders think their territorial hoots sound like someone saying, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”

Text from the October 2017 issue of National Geographic Kids magazine