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common name for nocturnal birds of prey found on all continents. Owls superficially resemble short-necked hawks, except that their eyes are directed forward and are surrounded by disks of radiating feathers. This peculiarity lends them an appearance of studious intelligence, and the owl has long been used as a symbol of wisdom. Although owls are able to see in daylight, their eyes are especially adapted to seeing in partial darkness, and most owls spend the day sleeping in caves, hollow trees, and other secluded places. Their plumage is so soft and fluffy that they are almost noiseless in flight. The order (Strigiformes) of owls is divided into two families; the barn owls (family Tytonidae), with heart-shaped faces, are one, and the typical owls (family Strigidae) compose the other. Owls feed on rodents, toads and frogs, insects, and small birds; like the hawks, they regurgitate pellets of indigestible matter. The elf and saw-whet owls of the SW United States and the pygmy owl of the Old World are only 6 in. (15 cm) long, while the eagle owl of Eurasia, the hawk owl of Australia, the great horned owl of North America (Bubo virginianus), and the snowy and great gray owls of the Arctic reach 2 ft (61 cm) with wingspreads of 4 to 5 ft (1.2 to 1.5 m). Many owls usurp the deserted nests of other birds, especially hawks; the burrowing owl of the New World lives in deserted prairie-dog burrows or digs its own. The barred owl has a familiar four-hoot call; the screech owl, misnamed for a similar European species, has a mournful descending cry. The long-eared owl is found in North America; the short-eared owl is ubiquitous. The tawny owl is common in England. Owls are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Strigiformes, families Tytonidae and Strigidae.


See J. A. Burton, ed., Owls of the World (1974), D. Morris, Owl (2009), and M. Taylor, Owls (2012).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/


Any of various nocturnal birds of prey, with hooked and feathered talons, large heads with short hooked beaks, and eyes set in a frontal facial plane.
See also: Ornament
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This decorated letter shows an owl and a witch with a cauldron. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Greeks looked upon the owl as a sacred symbol of wisdom. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was always accompanied by an owl. Many old Greek vases are decorated with owls, some of which have breasts and even vulvas. In Rome, however, the hooting of owls or the sight of one was said to presage a death, and it was considered bad luck to dream of an owl.

Athena, Anath, Blodeuwedd, Lilith, Mari, and Minerva are associated with owls. From the Neolithic Age through to the Early Bronze Age, a prominent image in art is the goddess in the form of an owl. The Latin for owl is strix, from which comes the Italian strega, meaning "witch."

Owls were frequently depicted, during the persecutions, as companions and servants of witches. Some owls were believed to transform into succubae. The ability of an owl to turn its head almost a full 360 degrees led to Christian belief that it was a servant of the devil.

Despite a lot of negative beliefs, the owl has also been credited with profound wisdom, oracular powers, and the ability to avert evil. De Givry suggests that the owl, along with the cat and the toad, is the inseparable companion of every witch.

Gimbutas, Marija: The Language of the Goddess. Harper & Row, 1989. Walker, Barbara G.: The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. HarperSanFrancisco, 1988.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about an owl?

A symbol of wisdom and virtue, as a night bird the owl is also a natural symbol of the unconscious. Solemn and wide-eyed, the owl may bear a message the dreamer needs to heed.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(vertebrate zoology)
Any of a number of diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey composing the order Strigiformes; characterized by a large head, more or less forward-directed large eyes, a short hooked bill, and strong talons.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


nocturnal bird; Night embodied. [Art: Hall, 231]
See: Night


associated with Athena, goddess of wisdom. [Gk. Myth.: Hall, 231]
See: Wisdom
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. any nocturnal bird of prey of the order Strigiformes, having large front-facing eyes, a small hooked bill, soft feathers, and a short neck
2. any of various breeds of owl-like fancy domestic pigeon (esp the African owl, Chinese owl, and English owl)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005




Object Windows Language.


The original name of Trellis.
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Why Is This OWL Instead of WOL?
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(2) (ObjectWindows Library) A class library of Windows objects from Borland that serves as an application framework for developing Windows applications in C++. It is the Borland counterpart of the Microsoft Foundation Class Library (MFC).
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It is another symbol for the unconscious. It usually represents wisdom and virtue, and your unconscious may be giving you important messages, so pay attention to the details in the dream. In the American Indian tradition, the owl is considered to be the eagle of the night. Dreaming about owls is a powerful dream that may indicate that changes are on the way. Superstition-based dream interpretations suggest that dreaming about an owl is a negative omen, which indicates a reversal in good fortune. An owl in the house predicts family arguments and chasing it away might cause things to work out for the best.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Alexandre Roulin, Luis San Jose from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, found that white owls were more easily seen by their prey on moonlit nights.
If current trends continue, scientists predict that the Spotted Owl could be extinct in the region within approximately six to eight decades.
The ears of a barn owl are set on the sides of its head hidden by the bird's plumage, but not level.
In a video uploaded on Facebook by Jose Ritche Bongcaron, faculty and director of the presidential management office of DLSU-D, the owl looked tired and could be seen stumbling on the ground.
Unlike most other owl species, which are nocturnal, snowy owls are highly diurnal, meaning they are very active during the daytime.
Along with pumpkins and trick or treaters, October is for owls. They play a role in the Halloween season, as folklore has them -- along with black cats -- accompanying witches.
During the Middle Ages, the early Christian church saw the owl as the perfect symbol of evil.
The Owls Trust rescues injured wild birds of prey and are involved in the conservation of some of the rarest owl species worldwide.
You may not even see the ear tufts on the short-eared owl, hence the name.