The Night Owl

“Blessed are the owls, for they shall inherit the mystery and magic of the night.”

(Hilary Rubinstein, The Complete Insomniac (London 1974) )
What a lovely thought!

But are owls really friends of the night?

Most owls /60% of all owl species) are nocturnal, hunting their prey under the cover of darkness.  The rest (two out of every five owls) are diurnal (active during the day) or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk).

If you want to know if an owl is nocturnal or not, look into the eye of an owl or at least take a good look at the colour of its eye.  Species with black eyes are nocturnal, if they have yellow eyes they’re diurnal and if their irises are orange they are lovers of the time pre-dawn or sunset.

We have all heard the  expression that ‘eyes are the window to the soul’. But what colour are your eyes? And what does that reveal about you?

Like fingerprints the patterns on our irises (the coloured part of a human eye) are unique, which is one reason recent passport biometric photo recognition systems require us to look straight into the camera without our spectacles or sunglasses. Some even claim that patterns in the iris can give an indication of whether we are warm and trusting or neurotic and impulsive. There’s even a facebook meme based on this!

The fact that most owls are either nocturnal or prefer the twilight time is interesting. The North American Hawk Owl and the Northern Pygmy Owl both hunt when the sun is up, though the latter prefers cloudy, overcast days. Mostly the owls’ preference for night or day depends on its prey. Is the food it eats more likely to be on the move at night or during the day. But even the nocturnal owls are alert during the day, in much the same way as it’s rare for us humans to switch off totally. We are aware of what’s happening around us as we sleep. We need to be.

Are you a night owl? A person who tends to stay up late at night?

According to one report in the Independent a fairly recent research on teenagers suggests that rather than being the ‘lazy, undisciplined slug-a-beds’ (love that expression!) they are often judged to be, they might actually be brighter or more intelligent than their often better regarded opposites, the early risers. Larks – early risers – tend to get better grades and assessments at school, quite possibly because lessons are set at the wrong time of day for night owls!

Now that’s something to ponder…

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