The owl, because it really is

The owl, because it really is

Nocturnal raptor, the owl does not bother anyone. But it is crazy what its nocturnal life has created trouble with Man, whose imagination it has fed. Today, the degradation of the environment creates other troubles for him. Decidedly!

Owl, a symbol of death and wisdom

The Cry of the Owl is the title of Hervé Bazin’s novel, which follows Vipère au’s point, just as eloquent in describing Folcoche, his fearsome mother. The cry of the owl is Folcoche’s return to the final peaceful life of her son, poor Brasse-Bouillon. Happy ending, the old owl ends up dying: phew, it was the only way to get rid of such a jinx!

The owl has tough skin: as soon as it lives at night, it has long been the haunt of Man. It is death incarnate in all its forms: messenger of the death of a loved one or a sick person, the incarnation of the soul of the dead, guardian of cemeteries. In France, to ward off bad luck, the poor woman was nailed to the barn doors.

A beautiful exception to the rule, the owl is the symbol of Athens: with its fixed gaze and its silent immobility, the nocturnal bird of the Acropolis was stamped on all the coins before the euro. Athena for the Greeks, Minerva for the Romans, this bird of prey symbolizes knowledge. Yes, she sees clearly in the dark.

From there to say that it pierces the darkness, the owl has a connection with the divine: the sun is an intuitive vision, while the moon pierces the beyond.

The expression “it’s nice

Rabelais made Panurge declare that Dove, his wife, was a beautiful little owl: a compliment! In old French, “chapter” meant “to make the coquet”. Aesthetics has jumped the gun to become good news. A very 60’s expression, a bit out of fashion.

At the Jeu de Paume, “Faire la chouette” meant playing alone against everyone. Tennis has modernized a bit: we play singles or doubles, so the expression has long since disappeared from the courts.

Nevertheless, something owlish is good news, nothing to do with bad omens.

Owl or owl?

The difference between an owl and an owl is almost a hair’s breadth: the owl has two egrets above its head, and the owl has no egrets. This absence has nothing to do with the owl’s excellent hearing.

These two tufts of feathers are only used by the owl to express its moods. In case of stress, the owl’s egrets stand up.

No such indicators of mood in the owl. But this unique difference between these two birds of prey is more French than scientific: English speakers don’t mind, calling both birds of prey indiscriminately “owl”.

The common point between the two birds: both are a protected species, beware of the one who dares to nail them to the doors of a barn, the fine is high (about 5 000 euros).

The cry of the owl: the ululation

Yes, the famous “Honolulu!” of the owl, on a full moon evening. It (h)ululates, from the Latin “ululate”, to scream. What does this mournful cry mean? Simply that, at night, it is important to talk to each other. All nocturnal birds do it: at mating time, the male transforms his “hoot-hoot” into a long “hoot-hoot”, the famous hoot.

While the nocturnal birds of prey are conversing with each other, this hooting has been known to make humans shudder: the hooting is sad to announce the death of a sick person, and even the souls of the dead fluttering over the graves to take revenge.

Representative species

The barn owl, one of our bell towers

It is called “white lady” or “barn owl”. With its large head and slender body, it has a real cartoon look. In addition, its flight is silent, with both legs hanging down. The barn owl likes to live here: bell towers, old buildings, that’s its thing. A cohabitation is all the more welcome, as it feeds on everything that eats up orchards, voles, and other pests.

The tawny owl, the most widespread

The tawny owl is the most widespread: stockier, with a mottled plumage from gray to red and two piercing black eyes, it is one of our regions, forests, and human dwellings that it does not neglect.

What annoys her? If we disturb her when she nests. Its strong point: hunting in the almost complete darkness. But how to see her? She likes to warm herself in the sun. There, there is perhaps a chance…

The owl, the one from Athens

Here is the symbol of wisdom and clairvoyance: contrary to the other species, its head is not a huge facial disk, it is even rather flat although rounded. Its plumage is grey-brown spotted with white, and its eyes are yellow, enhanced by obvious eyebrows.

What creates the difference from the others? The owl is both nocturnal and diurnal. If it was lucky enough not to be nailed to barn doors, it suffers today from pesticides, which poison its food grounds.