In which we explain how on Earth an owl can turn its head 270 degrees … as demonstrated by the world’s cutest burrowing owl.
Burrowing owls are unique, what with their giant owl eyes, long legs and charming proclivities. They defy the norms of more owly owls by hunting on the ground by daylight, and of course, the burrowing part – they live underground, often times in borrowed burrows previously occupied by prairie dogs.
They also hop about on one foot and have a special way of bobbing their heads – in addition to pivoting it around in the most curious contortions. But in this, they are not alone.
The eyes of an owl are firmly set and can’t move about; to compensate for that, owls have developed exceedingly flexible necks. They can turn their heads almost all the way around – up to 270 degrees. And while that may give us humans a sore neck just to watch, for owls it’s business as usual.
An owl’s head is only connected to one socket to pivot, National Geographic explains, whereas humans have two, which keeps our heads relatively twist-challenged (unless you’re name is Regan and you’re possessed by demons, of course). They also have 14 neck bones that help them with their impressive range of motion. Also unique is that owls have “backup arteries” which, as National Geographic explains, “offer a fresh supply of nutrients when blood vessels get closed off by rapid turning. Their arteries also swell to collect any excess blood created in the process.”
In the video below, the very very very cute and curious burrowing owl doesn't swivel its head around to the back, but manages to turn it completely upside-down! One minute and 17 seconds of pure unadulterated mushy cuteness ensues – bonus points for the shimmy at 25 seconds.
For more on burrowing owls, see 8 wonderfully weird facts about burrowing owls.