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Owl photos are flooding the internet ahead of the Super Bowl. Here’s why

By Megan Marples, CNN

Superb Owl. No wait, Super Bowl.

Too late.

Instead of Super Bowl information, one small typo later and your search results are filled with owl content instead. And we’d like to encourage you to lean into the error. Because owls truly are “superb.”

These birds are a far cry from football, but over the years the trend has gained significant popularity. So much so, that many people flood the internet with photos of owls before the Super Bowl each year. (And you know what a gathering of owls is called, right? A parliament.)

This internet phenomenon puts these feathery creatures in the spotlight, which ultimately aids awareness, said Matt Williams, director of conservation with the Indiana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

“I say anything that helps get the message out about the importance of conservation is a good thing,” he said.

A stone-cold predator

Owls are quite interesting. Some people think they are innocent balls of fluff, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, Williams said.

“Owls are voracious predators that hunt mostly at night using a very keen sense of hearing to help locate their prey,” he said in an email.

Their disc-shaped face directs sound to their ears, which allows them to hear the quietest noises, Williams explained. Their feathers are designed to make them almost completely silent when they fly, a useful trick for sneaking up on their prey, he added.

Most owls are content to feast on small mammals like mice and shrews, said Seth Magle, director of the Urban Wildlife Institute at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Some larger owls like the great horned owl can snatch up rabbits, skunks or even other owls, Williams said.

Super Bowl owl mascots

The Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals may already have their own mascots, but there’s no harm in adding some owls into the mix.

Williams thought the barred owl could represent the Bengals because the birds share a similar stripe pattern to the team’s helmets.

“For the Rams, I’d have to say the snowy owl of Harry Potter fame because their quarterback Matthew Stafford has been a wizard during their playoff run so far,” he explained.

Magle assigned the Eastern screech owl to the Bengals because it’s found in Ohio and shares a similar color to the team.

The California spotted owl would fit quite nicely with the Rams, he added.

“It has a four-note call sometimes described as ‘hup, hoo-hoo, hooo,’ which seems like it could be an audible called at the line of scrimmage,” Magle said.

See an owl in the wild

Your experience with owls doesn’t have be limited to the internet. Communities around the United States are hosting educational events about the nocturnal animals that include a nature walk.

Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, offered a special Superb Owl event on Saturday of Super Bowl weekend.

The Leslie Science & Nature Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will host an owl event on Sunday morning. The center will have resident owls on display, and people can dissect owl pellets, which are the undigested parts of their meal that they regurgitate.

Why not venture outdoors this weekend so you can get to know these fascinating creatures? It’ll be a hoot.

Now meet some superb owls

There are over 250 owl species, and we’d like to introduce you to some of our favorites.

Many people think all owls make a hooting noise, but that is not the case. The great gray owl does not hoot, Williams said, but rather makes a series of “hoos” in a low pitch.

The short-eared owl can be found in prairies and wetlands, unlike most other owls who live in forests, Williams said.

Barred owls are very vocal birds that can often be heard making the traditional hooting noise, said Charles Eldermire, Bird Cams project leader at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Great horned owls are known for their iconic ear tufts and catlike eyes, Eldermire said. You can watch the goings-on at a great horned owl pair’s nest near Savannah, Georgia, on a live cam.

The burrowing owl lives its life the opposite of most owls. Rather than being active at night and living in trees, this bird spends the day awake and makes its home on the ground, Magle said.

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