The Miracle of Owls: The Bird That Should Not Exist
Owls, although birds, are unique compared to other airborne avians. Called the greatest hunters, they are one of the rare bird species that regularly hunt at night.[i] They also have eyes that face forward rather than being located on the sides of their head like most other birds. Also, unlike most other birds, when not flying, owls sit straight up supported by their two legs. Many of the bones that are separated in mammals are fused together in owls, making them strong enough to support their weight when on the ground. They also have large, broad heads surrounded by a collection of feathers around the eyes. Called a “facial disc”, it functions like a satellite dish to amplify sound.[ii] The facial disc is their distinctive trait, possessed by all owls but by no other bird. Also, in contrast to most birds, they do quite well in very diverse habitats, from deserts to forests and even in locations near the arctic, where they are appropriately named snowy owls.[iii] They are also critically important in keeping the rodent population, especially rats, under control.[iv]
Their incredible vision
Owls have one of the sharpest known visual acuities of any known animal. They possess large, forward-facing eyes set behind their hawk-like beaks. The perfect and precise distance between their eyes was specially designed to achieve the excellent depth perception required for their carnivorous diet. Their vision is over ten times better than humans, so that potentially they could make out letters on a newspaper 100 yards away. Owls’ superior binocular vision was specially created to allow them to hunt at night. Even on nights lacking moonlight, an owl can easily spot a mouse 50 feet away.
Besides their regular eyelid they have an elastic transparent nictitating membrane that functions like the window wiper blades of an automobile. It has brush-like cells that ensure the eye surface is moist, free of dirt, and protected against microorganisms.[v]
Many design innovations contribute to their superior vision. In most owl species, their eyes are five percent of the birds’ total body weight. If this proportion was applied to human beings, we would have eyes the size of large grapefruits. The larger the eyes, the more light they can take in. Furthermore, owls also have very large pupils, which let even more light in to strike the retina. Owl eyes also have a higher proportion of rod cells than many animals. Their rods are very sensitive to light, allowing them to see superbly in darkness.
In contrast to most animals, their eyes are located at the front of their heads, allowing them to zero in on their prey. However, owls cannot move their eyeballs as can most mammals, so in order to see their side visual field, they can rotate their heads up to 270 degrees, enough to see behind themselves. This design produces a very wide field of vision, wider than most life forms. They can also turn their neck almost completely upside down![vi] And when tired they can rest their large head on their shoulders in order to sleep.
To achieve these feats owls have specially designed neck vertebrae that are strong and flexible. Their 14 neck vertebrae (compared to 7 in humans) allow them to twist and turn their necks in just about any direction.[vii] To turn their head to see behind them, they have neck blood vessels designed to allow turning this far without causing damage. To achieve this feat owls have a special jugular vein arrangement with associated bypass connector blood vessels to ensure that their blood supply (and return) is not impeded as the neck is rotated.[viii] In contrast to humans, owls have only one occipital articulation with the cervical vertebrae. This design allows an owl to pivot its head on its vertebral column – comparable to a human pivoting on one foot. Their muscle structure is designed to allow this movement as well.
Their extraordinary hearing ability
Owls have “one of the most extraordinary capacities for hearing in the animal kingdom.”[ix]
The ear design includes the placement of the ear canals. The left ear is about one inch higher than the right, but points downward while the lower right ear points upward. The result of this design is that the left ear is more sensitive to sound.[x]
Animal life with two ears, one on each side of the head, (as is true of owls), requires comparing the different information received from each of the two ears. This is achieved in their brain which combines the two signals into one signal. Otherwise, the sound information would be like an echo chamber. Differences in sound arrival time, intensity, loudness, and force all must be fused by the brain into one harmonious whole.[xi]
Owls’ binaural fusion is so good that they can hear a mouse under two feet of snow! They also can determine the exact location of their rodent prey.[xii] Owls achieve this by a second processing system. One processing system fuses the two sounds from both ears, (which is the information message as described above). The other system uses differences in arrival time, intensity, loudness, and force to accurately determine the location of the sound source.[xiii]Owls do this so accurately that they can pinpoint their rodent prey location to within a few centimeters. This allows them to catch a mouse in complete darkness by relying solely on acoustical information.
Feathers designed for silent flight
Bird wing flapping is noisy, and would make catching mice very difficult. To deal with this problem each feather is bordered by a fringe made of tiny comb-like serrations at both the leading and trailing edge of their wings that break up the air currents which cause flight noise.[xiv]This is important because their prey, such as mice, also have excellent hearing that allows them to hear the slightest sound. Their comb-like serrations design has inspired engineers to design quieter fan blades in computers, drones and other devices.[xv]
Owls and all birds are believed by the majority of scientific workers to have “evolved from one group of dinosaurs (Theropoda) possibly during the Jurassic Period. Unfortunately, as so often happens, the fossil record is incomplete and one cannot trace all the steps between birds and their reptilian ancestors.”[xvi] Evolutionists cannot trace their evolution because it never occurred. Because owl skulls are very distinct due to their telescoping eye sockets, if they evolved, their change from their bird ancestor should be easy to document in the fossil record.
The fact is “owls are well represented in the fossil record. … New fossil discoveries are rare, and only over time will they either corroborate or refute the ever-changing proposed evolutionary relationships.”[xvii] One problem is, when an owl fossil is found, it often consists of only small fragments. One well-known owl fossil was later confirmed to be a small dinosaur.[xviii]
Actually, the claim that the bird fossil record is incomplete is an understatement. Indeed, evolutionists have no meaningful evidence for the evolution of owls from some pre-owl bird. As Burton admits “Bones of the earliest owls are good owl bones, but not halfway stages between owls and some other ancestral groups.”[xix] This is a problem because, as this review documents, the contrast between owls and all other birds is enormous.
The oldest known owl fossils are not links to theropods, nor even to non-owl birds, but simply extinct owl species. The most well-known example, Primoptynx poliotaurus, is an extinct owl that lived in Wyoming and is believed by evolutionists to have lived during the Eocene epoch around 55 million years ago close to the time when evolutionists believed the dinosaurs lived. Although missing its head, this fossil was largely complete. It was discovered in North America, causing Darwinists to conclude that owls must have first evolved in North America. So far, all owl fossils found only show variation within the Genesis kind.
We are indeed grateful that these exceptional predators exist. No wonder we are excited whenever we have the opportunity to observe an owl however large or small. The more we learn about these birds, the greater our appreciation of God, their creator, becomes.
[i] Breeding, Dan, Night stalker, Answers 4(4):20-22, Oct.- Dec. 2009, p. 22.
[ii] Devore, Sheryl, The Greatest Hunter, Birds &Blooms, October 2017, p. 11,
[iii] Duncan, James. 2003. Owls of the World. Boston, MA: Firefly Books. p. 73-74.
[iv] Adler, Jerry, Top Talon, National Wildlife 10(2):51-60, 1992.
[v] Duncan, James. 2003. p. 41.
[vi] Duncan, James. 2003. p. 44.
[vii] Breeding, Dan, 2009.
[viii] Fabian de Kok-Mercado et al. 2013. Science. February 1 DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6119.514
[ix] O’Quinn, Jonathan C., “Hear, ye – hear, ye” Creation Matters 21(2):12, 2016.
[x] Konishi, Masakazu, Listening with two ears. Scientific American 268(4):66-73, 1993, p. 67.
[xi] Konishi, Masakazu, 1993, p. 66.
[xii] Konishi, Masakazu, 1993, p. 66.
[xiii] Konishi, Masakazu, 1993, p. 66.
[xiv] Catchpoole, David. As Silent as a Flying Owl. Creation 40(2):56. 2018
[xv] Rao, Chen. Owl-inspired leading-edge serrations play a crucial role in aerodynamic force production and sound suppression. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. 12(4):6008. 4 July 2017.
[xvi] Burton, John, editor Owls of the World: Their Evolution, Structure and Ecology, Chapter Two: The Origin of Owls, pp. 27-33, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1973, p. 27.
[xvii] Duncan, James. 2003. p. 72.
[xviii] Duncan, James. 2003. p. 72.
[xix] Burton, John. 1973, p. 15.
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