Wise & Wonderful

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Barn owls are great rodent hunters and, while feeding their owlets, provide much-needed pest control for farmers.


With keen eyesight and nearly silent flight patterns, owls have been symbols of wisdom and mystery from ancient times. And while their appearance is unmistakable, they exhibit great variety among species, in both form and habits. There are five species of owls that we typically find in the Vero Beach area and in Florida as a whole. While they all share many features that have made owls a source of fascination for centuries, each species has distinctive and interesting traits.

The idea that owls are a symbol of wisdom is often used in advertising today — notice how many animated “spokesowls” you see in television commercials — but it actually goes back to the ancient Greeks. The large eyes of owls, along with their excellent nocturnal eyesight, may have prompted the Greeks to associate the birds with their goddess of wisdom, Athena. 

Since Athena was also viewed as the patron deity and namesake of Athens, owls became a symbol of one of the great cities of the ancient world. Athenian silver coins were adorned with images of owls wherein the large scale of the eyes is emphasized. The Greeks were looking at a species of owl found in Europe, Asia and North Africa called the “little owl,” which even today has the scientific name Athene noctua.

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