There are few things, if any, the internet loves more than baby animals. After decades of cooing over puppies, kittens, and fox and raccoon kits, it’s time to move on to baby birds. When an image of a face-down owlet began making the social media rounds, viewers were concerned that the bird of prey had met its end. Luckily, amateur ornithologists jumped in to let internet users know the bird in question was not dead, injured, or drunk on rodent wine: it was simply resting its heavy head.
Twitter user @PulpLibrarian shared the image, credited to a Japanese wildlife park, with the information that, “Juvenile snow owls often sleep face down on the ground because the weight of their heads means they can’t sleep when perched.” Social media exploded with the new knowledge that young owls can’t sleep upright in trees like their parents because their owl heads are too large for their young bodies. @PulpLibrarians was just one post of many that touted the news and was subsequently liked, shared, and digested by thousands.
#NationalNappingDay: juvenile snow owls often sleep face down on the ground because the weight of their heads means they can’t sleep when perched.
This one, pictured in a Japanese wildlife park in 2017, may look like an ex-owl but he is only having a nap. HE IS NOT A DRUNK OWL!! pic.twitter.com/7Df8bJBH9M
— Pulp Librarian (@PulpLibrarian) March 9, 2020
Heavy Is The Head
Twitter users were delighted with the new owl trivia, with @ImpStrump proclaiming, “Reminds me of when a human toddler just can’t anymore, and lies facedown on the floor.” Other tweeters were skeptical, with @k3170Makan remarking, “I know a drunk owl when I see one.” A remarkable number of posters were obsessed with the owl’s legs, which look like furry pants. Still others were feeling sad for the clearly dead mouse in the frame, likely left there for a post-nap snack, with @SWIAM_CORP asking, “That mouse is just napping too, right? RIGHT?!”
Many posters were unconvinced that the bird was not engaged in the big sleep instead of just a nap, so pros began chiming in to confirm the prostrate position. @pette_davis noted, “I used to raise baby owls at my old job. This is a juvenile Great Horned Owl about to go to sleep. They sleep on their stomachs.” Redditors were credited with originating the fun fact, with over 1,200 comments on the initial subthread. Poster KittyKerchoo spoke for many, saying, “I see myself in this picture and I love it, keep up the good work owlet.”
I used to raise baby owls at my old job. This is a juvenile Great Horned Owl about to go to sleep. They sleep on their stomachs. pic.twitter.com/aQiu9Pe0U6
— pette davis (@pette_davis) July 25, 2018
Among The Branches
Though the initial post shows an owl in captivity, many Twitter users shared pics of young owls leaning into adult owls, against tree branches, and in burrow holes as they sought to support their weight and catch some z’s. One user, @pnwkate shared a video of a wee Great Horned owl balancing precariously on a branch, seemingly in a deep trance. Another user, @RobertEFuller, shared a comical and relatable bird’s eye view of, “This baby barn owl fighting to stay awake whilst its older sibling has no problem sleeping”; as described, one older owl sleeps soundly on the ground as its younger sib wobbles back and forth, fighting off the sleeps.
According to The Audobon Society’s BirdNote program, young owls feel safe sleeping in the branches because their razor-sharp talons keep them anchored. As host Mary McCann explained, “Keeping their talons tightly gripped on a branch, the owlets lie down on their stomachs, [turn their heads to the side, and fall asleep]. Their naps are short, and when they are asleep, they do not like to be awakened, even to be fed. A young owl doesn’t fall out of the tree while it snoozes, because its back toe, the hallux, holds onto the branch. The hallux will not open or let go until the bird bends its leg.”
This baby barn owl is fighting to stay awake whilst its older sibling has no problem sleeping 💤😂🐥🦉@BarnOwlTrust @Daily__Owls @Owltrust @birdsofprey_uk @EarthUnplugged @BBCEarth pic.twitter.com/jl3xnIySnA
— Robert E Fuller (@RobertEFuller) October 12, 2019
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