Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bird BS- #2 Owls Aren’t Wise

JK Rowling hasn’t been a bit of help on this one- and she isn’t alone. Storytellers the world over have an obvious delight with owls. These nocturnal birds are second only to penguins for their appearances in story books and Hollywood fairytales. While most of these night time raptors are supremely adapted for hunting at night (an evolutionary home run in its own right), the general public knows owls best for their wisdom. Ahhh, the wise old owl.

Assigning human attributes to animals is always a bit messy, but the claim that owls are particularly wise is downright grimy. While owls share with several other types of birds a relatively large brain size, they do not seem to use it in a brainy way.

Wisdom implies innovation and while many birds are known to make and use tools, build elaborate nests and learn new behaviours, owls are not generally among them. They make due with their exceptional function and form, but we want more out of them than that. We even want them to be industrious, but the only reason for a ‘Night Owl’ is that they spend the day sleeping. An owl shows no more or less inclination to put in long hours than it does to being wise.

The fact of the matter, the reason that owls have long been viewed as wise is that among all birds, they tend to look the most like us. They have a nice round head and two great big forward facing eyes. Since we think ourselves as wise, so too must be owls. Our erroneous views on owls clearly question whether either of us should be considered to be all that wise.

No comments:

Post a Comment