Why owls live by night and fly without making a sound (024)

Owls are thought of as mysterious and wise birds. Why though do we hardly ever see an owl in the daytime? And why do they fly around the heavens at night without making a sound? Listen to this tale about the owl’s tragic fate.

All the birds were busy tweeting and screeching in the woods. Goodness me, they were all very angry! Angry about the sly and deceitful tricks of that one small bird. It was not fair that he had won the King of the Birds Competition by sheer cunning * . The wren simply had to be punished! But what was a suitable punishment? A meeting was needed to discuss the matter. Until an appropriate verdict had been reached, the little bird was imprisoned in a mouse hole which was only just big enough to house him in. A good warden to stand guard was clearly necessary, because the wren had already proved himself to be a bird of such cunning. The birds were unanimous in choosing the tough, solid and above all clever owl as the best possible prison warden. The owl went and sat patiently in front of the entrance to the mouse hole, guarding his prisoner and watching over everything and everybody with his large round eyes. For hours on end the birds talked about which punishment the wren deserved. There were nearly as many ideas as there were birds. And in the meantime for hour after hour the owl kept watch…. and then he finally fell asleep. When the clever little bird realized this, he silently slipped passed the owl and fled into the dense thicket nearby. Once safely hidden in the depths of the undergrowth he brazenly sang out his song of triumph.

No words can quite describe the birds’ fury when they discovered that that small brazen bird had been able to escape because of the owl’s lapse in attention. Now not only should the little bird be punished but also the owl for his enormous blunder. The birds had to hold a second meeting…

The proud wise owl could guess what his comeuppance would be, decided to avoid certain public humiliation and fled. Ever since then he has never let himself be seen by his fellow creatures during the hours of daylight. Only when darkness has fallen and all the others are asleep does the owl come to life. He has taught himself how to fly soundlessly in the darkness of the night, so that no bird will wake up and still try to take revenge. Another  legacy of his disgrace is the owl’s intense hatred for mice who make those miserable little holes from which prisoners can escape. That is why the owl is out hunting mice every night.

Four types of owls are to be found in The Netherlands: there are approximately 12.000 long-eared owls,10.000 tawny owls, 4.000 church owls, but only some 70 short-eared owls. With the exception of the tawny owl, there has been a serious decline in the owl population. But these numbers are not exact: being active by night and well-hidden due to good camouflage by day when they sleep (roost), owls are very difficult to count. And as for their ability to fly without making a noise: owls can fly soundlessly because their wings have special feathers.This enables them to hunt mice in the silence of the night without frightening them off.


* First read the tale about the wren.


© Els Baars, Natuurverhalen.nl


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Els Baars