Did you know you were created to survive and for a purpose? A look at owls helped me understand this better.
He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.Daniel 2:22 NIV
Why Do Owls Look Wise?
I only started birding about a decade ago. Before then, I noticed birds like robins, bluebirds, and eagles, but really didn’t know much. When I used to push our daughters around in a stroller along the canals in rural California, we often noticed the cutest little owls standing guard near their burrows. They would bounce up and down on their spindly legs and gaze at us with their wise-looking eyes.
I realize most owls don’t hang out during the daytime. Instead, they spend their days roosting quietly in trees or on ledges. But when darkness comes, they start to hunt. God created owls with specific features to make them perfect night hunters, and it starts with those wise eyes.
Unlike most birds, owl eyes face forward, rather than having one on each side of their head. This human-like trait gives owls their wise appearance. Even though their eyes face forward, owls can’t move their eyes—they must move their heads to see. Their unique vertebrae structure (they have twice the number in their necks as humans) allows them to crane their necks 270˚.
Owl eyes have twice as much sensitivity to light as humans. God created them with more rods in their eyes, which allows them to see better in low-light situations. As in humans, their pupils shrink or enlarge to control the amount of light entering their eyes. But the high number of cones make their eyes more efficient at seeing in the dark.
Created to Hear and Not be Heard
Owls have incredible hearing, even though they don’t have visible ears. Those tufts on some owls don’t cover ears—they just help direct sound to the owl’s ears. God created owls with disc-shaped faces which help collect sound waves. Satellite dishes do the same thing (and share a shape). The stiff feathers surrounding the owl’s face help channel sound towards their hidden ears. Some owls have offset ears to help them better pinpoint an object’s location and height.
God created owls with incredible flight feathers. Owl flight feathers have a comb-like leading edge and a fringe on the trailing edge. This allows air to pass over the feathers silently. In addition, their huge wings allow them to fly slowly. Slower than the average person walks, in fact (2 mph flight while the average human walks 3-4 mph). This silence during flight makes it easier for owls to hunt unsuspecting prey.
Many birds have a few hollow bones to help with weight reduction. Owls have more hollow bones than other birds and their bones make up 7-9% of their body weight. This allows them to carry what they catch and aids in their silent flight.
Getting a Grip
Owls have incredible toes. Owl toes have long claws or talons on the end of them, which they use to grab, grip, and squeeze prey to death. Two of their four toes point forward, and one points back. Their fourth toe can change directions. It will face backward to help an owl safely perch on a branch, or face forward to grip prey.
God created us with incredible survival skills, too. First, he engineered us with a desire to seek him. If we look for Light in the darkness, he will lead us to himself. We may hear him through observing the wonder of nature, through the witness of his followers, or through reading the Bible. If we seek, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13).
While we might not have funky toes that point in either direction, we do have amazing systems which enable us to survive and thrive despite our circumstances. Neuroplasticity allows us to learn new things until the day we die. We can learn from our mistakes and form habits that lead to better choices.
For those times when we feel foolish or in need of wisdom, God promises to make us wise (James 1:5). God wants us to survive in a dark world, and he has equipped us to see, hear, and learn about his true nature.
How do you feel closest to your Creator?