Owls are the one group of birds living a seclusive and mostly nocturnal life. This makes them hard to find in nature and only a limited number of people have contact to owls on a more regular basis.
Basically, owls are birds of prey, because they feed on prey. However, it is because of their mainly nocturnal habits that they form their own order, separated from birds of prey. In the Western Palearctic, three species are diurnal which are Snowy Owl, Hawk Owl, Pygmy Owl and the Short-eared Owl. They feed by catching prey and have binocular vision.
It is especially their binocular vision, and binaural hearing perfectly adapting them to life in twilight and during nighttime. It must be said that even owls cannot see anything in total darkness. They compensate this by using their phenomenal hearing abilities. Owls have a number of similarities they all share with each other:
Some owls sport ear tufts. Eagle Owl and Long-eared Owl do have the longest ear tufts. Short-eared Owl, Marsh Owl and Scops Owl have rather shortish ear tufts; other owls don't have them at all.
Ear tufts are a pair of small bunches of 6-8 feathers that can stand upright on the birds head or are draped alongside the forehead and over the eyebrows. These feather bunches are no real ears and mainly stand upright in case of emotons or agitation. The purpose of these feather ears is still unknown. Still four theories have been developed in order to give some sense to that matter:
Within the palearctic range there are 18 species existing. Some are limited to the harsh subarctic conditions of northern Europe, some are native to northern Africa, some to the Middle East: