Which Bird is the Most Intelligent?

Were you aware that there is a bird renowned for its predatory skills and high level of intelligence? Who is it? It’s the owl, of course!

Owls are birds of prey known as raptors. Like all raptors, owls have sharp beaks and powerful talons that they utilize to capture and consume other animals as their food source. Other raptors include hawks, eagles, and falcons.

Owls do not necessarily compete with other raptors for food. In fact, they can often share territories because, unlike most raptors, owls are predominantly active at night. This means that owls do most of their hunting when other raptors are asleep.

Scientists estimate that there are over 200 different species of owls worldwide. Nearly 20 species of owls can be found in North America alone. Presently, owls can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Owls come in a variety of sizes, ranging from the tiny elf owl (measuring five inches tall) to the two-foot-tall great gray owl. Regardless of size, all owls are typically compact with large heads and soft feathers. Their feathers often have light colors, such as tan, brown, gray, and white, which allows them to easily blend in with tree trunks and branches.

When you spot an owl, one of the first things you notice is its large eyes. Owl eyes are so massive that they are unable to move in their sockets like your eyes can. Therefore, owls have to move their heads around to change their field of vision.

Owls’ large eyes enhance their ability to see in the dark, which is when they typically hunt. Most owls can see about three times better at night compared to humans!

Surprisingly, however, most owls do not primarily hunt using their sight. Instead, they primarily rely on their sense of sound. The feathers around an owl’s face function similarly to a satellite dish, collecting sound waves from the environment.

Owls also have one ear that is slightly higher on their head than the other ear. This arrangement allows sounds to reach the owls’ ears at slightly different times, enabling their brains to accurately determine the source of the sound.

So, are owls truly wise? Scientists can confirm that they are skilled predators. As for their actual wisdom, it remains uncertain. However, historians have observed that owls have been depicted in the art and literature of various cultures since ancient times.

For instance, the ancient Greek and Roman goddesses of wisdom were often portrayed alongside owls. This association may have contributed to the use of owls as a symbol of wisdom in many other forms of popular culture. Numerous children’s books, including “Winnie-the-Pooh” and the Harry Potter series, showcase owls as wise and noble creatures.

Give It a Try

Who do you think is the wisest animal of them all? Invite a friend or family member to explore the following activities:

  • Go online and visit the Owl Gallery to see pictures of various owl species. Which species do you find the most fascinating? Why? Select one species and conduct some research on the internet to learn more about it.
  • Aren’t owls extremely cool? If you’re interested in a hands-on owl activity, try one of these enjoyable owl craft projects: + Owl Handprint Craft + Really Big, Stuffed Newspaper Owl + Owl Paper Bag Puppet
  • If you wish to observe owls in action, make sure to watch National Geographic’s Wild Detectives: Night Owls video. Would you like to be the prey of an owl? Considering the owl’s hunting abilities, how would you decide to camouflage yourself from a hunting owl?

Valuable Sources

  • http://idahoptv.org/sciencetrek/topics/owls/facts.cfm accessed on 13th December 2018
  • http://animals.about.com/od/owls/a/owl-facts.htm accessed on 13th December 2018


1. Who is considered the wisest bird?

Among birds, the owl is often considered the wisest. Owls have long been associated with wisdom and knowledge in various cultures and mythologies. Their large, forward-facing eyes and ability to rotate their heads give them a wise and observant appearance. Additionally, owls are known for their exceptional hunting skills and ability to adapt to different environments, which further adds to their reputation as wise creatures.

2. Why are owls considered wise?

Owls are considered wise for several reasons. Their ability to see in the dark symbolizes the ability to see through deception and illusions, which is often associated with wisdom. Their calm and patient nature, as well as their thoughtful and deliberate movements, also contribute to their wise reputation. Furthermore, owls have a unique ability to listen and observe silently, which is seen as a characteristic of wisdom in many cultures.

3. Are there any other birds associated with wisdom?

While owls are the most commonly associated bird with wisdom, there are a few other birds that are also symbols of wisdom in different cultures. The raven or crow, for example, is often associated with wisdom and intelligence in Norse mythology. The parrot is another bird that is sometimes linked to wisdom due to its ability to imitate human speech and its association with knowledge and communication.

4. Is there any scientific basis for the belief that owls are wise?

From a scientific perspective, the belief that owls are wise is more of a cultural and symbolic association rather than a factual statement. Owls are indeed intelligent birds, with exceptional hunting skills and the ability to adapt to various environments. However, their intelligence does not necessarily translate to wisdom as humans understand it. The perception of owls as wise creatures is primarily based on their appearance, behavior, and their roles in various mythologies and folklore.

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