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Name: Anay G.
Status: student
Age: 13
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 3/22/2004


Question:
How are owls able to turn their head all the way around when looking for prey?


Replies:
Anay,

Owls have only one occipital articulation with the cervical vertebrae. (That means there is only one bone situated on top of the backbone.) Humans have two articulations.

This allows the owl to pivot on the vertebrae column much like your body can pivot on one foot. Their muscle structure is arranged in a manner that allows this movement as well.

Humans are pivoting much like using two feet to pivot. It is much more limited.

Steve Sample

Up-dated July 2008

In addition to the special occipital structure, owls have twice the number of neck bones that humans (and many birds) do.

The third adaptation that owls have is a special arrangement of the jugular veins with associated bypass connector blood vessels, to ensure that blood supply (and return) are not impeded as the neck is rotated.*

Most birds need a fairly flexible neck for preening reasons, but owls have an additional motivation. They cannot move their eyes in their eye sockets to any meaningful degree, and they don't seem to have the multiple fovea that some birds (e.g., Terns) do, therefore to "look around" it's critical to have a flexible neck.

* Owls of the World, Dr. J. Duncan

Paul Bridges


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