Why Do Owls Turn Their Heads to Look Around?
Since an owl cannot move its eyes around like a person can, it has to turn its whole head in order to look in another direction. Owls are more flexible than humans because a bird’s head is only connected by one socket pivot. People have two, which limits our ability to twist.
Owls have many more vertebrae in their necks than people do. The neck bones are so flexible that an owl can turn its head almost all the way around. All birds have flexible necks. Even the little sparrow has twice as many vertebrae in its neck as a person has.
A flexible neck is important. It enables the bird to look in all directions for danger, to catch food more easily, and to reach any part of its body with its beak.
Yet, even with these skeletal advantages, a bird’s body shouldn’t be able to withstand such extreme levels of movement. In people, a spinning head would cause all kinds of internal bleeding and breakage.
Owls have backup arteries too, which 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.