What Does an Owl Look Like?

An owl has a large head, often topped with ear tufts or display feathers, and a flat face, called a facial disc. Because they are birds of prey, owls have sharp claws and beaks that curve downward, enabling them to effectively hunt, catch and eat their food.

The owl's appearance is actually evolution's way of making the owl a top nocturnal predator. Its ears, located behind the eyes, give the owl acute hearing during the night when light is limited. They are set unevenly on the head, one higher than the other, so that the owl can easily distinguish from where the sound is coming. The owl's flat face, called the facial disc, helps to guide sound waves into its ears. The owl can even somewhat alter the shape of its face to increase sound reception.

The owl's beak points downward to prevent it from interfering with incoming sound waves. At the same time, the sharply curved beak allows the owl to catch and tear into the flesh of its prey. The sizes of owls differ from the great gray owl, which grows to over 2 feet tall, to the minuscule elf owl at 5 inches. Usually owls sport very short tail feathers.