This Is Why Owls Bob Their Heads

Mystery, solved.

02/02/2016 7:02 PM AEDT | Updated 06/02/2016 7:22 AM AEDT

A recent segment of "BirdNote" answered an age-old question about owls: Why do they bob their heads? 

Turns out they're not trying to freak you out so much as figure you out.

Owls can't move their eyes in the same way we do -- they're fixed in one position -- so the birds move their entire heads instead.

"All these varied head movements help the owl judge the position and distance of things around it," host Mary McCann explained. "Essentially, to triangulate on objects, including potential prey and to build a composite picture of its surroundings."

While other birds of prey also bob their heads, the 270-degree rotation of the owl's neck makes for a much more dramatic stare. 

Just be glad that staring is all the owl does when it looks you over.  

"After a few of these head-bobs to triangulate on their prey, they rarely miss," McCann said. 

Download or listen to more episodes of "BirdNote" here.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated that BirdNote is associated with Audubon; it is not. 


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