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Owls are raptors that make up the order of Strigiformes, subdivided into the “typical owl” (Strigidae) and “barn owl” (Tytonidae) families. There are over 200 species, which can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Species vary in size from the elf owl (Micrathene whitneyi), which is the size of a sparrow, to Blakiston’s fish owl (Bubo blakistoni), which is the size of a large eagle.

Morphology and Perception

Nearly all owl species are nocturnal and consequently have eyes that are specialized for vision in poor light. Some species have been demonstrated to have color vision, but there is currently no evidence that any can see in UV or infrared spectra. Owls have forward facing eyes, which provide them with binocular vision. There is evidence that barn owls (Tyto alba) structure figure-ground relationships similarly to primates, indicating some convergent evolution of visual perception (Van der Willigen et al. 2003). However, owls are unique in that their large...

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Correspondence to Jennifer Colbourne .

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© 2019 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

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Colbourne, J. (2019). Owls. In: Vonk, J., Shackelford, T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Springer, Cham.

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