Science and TechAnimals and Insects


When Owls Bob Their Heads, They're Not Trying To Be Creepy

Part of the reason owls bob their heads so often is because their eyes are stuck in a fixed position, but there's more to it than just that.
Posted at 12:21 PM, Feb 02, 2016

Have you ever wondered if owls are just naturally creepy or if they're intentionally trying to weird us out with the way they move their heads?

Well, a recent BirdNote podcast helped explain exactly why owls bob their heads like that. (Video via Peace River Wildlife Center)

"All of these varied head movements help the owl judge the position and distance of things around it, essentially to triangulate on objects," said Mary McCann.

Owls' eyes are actually in a fixed position, so all those odd head motions help them see their surroundings better. But this isn't exactly a new discovery. (Video via International Owl Center)

As a 1988 Stanford University paper put it, many bird species bob their heads to determine how far away something is by judging how fast objects move across their field of vision — the closer the object, the faster it crosses their field of vision. (Video via Blandford Nature Center)

But owls aren't the only birds that do this. Falcons, hawks and other species frequently bob their heads to gauge how far away their prey is. See? Not so weird after all.

This video includes images from Getty Images.