No, owls are not waterproof.
Owls have given up the oil found in many feathers that protects other birds from rain, for soft, silent feathers more valuable for stealthy hunting.
Owls sacrifice a preen gland that other birds use for waterproofing their feathers. It is rare to see an owl hunting in the rain. If an owl accidentally gets too wet, it may swim to shore instead of flying with wet feathers.
Owls can continue to fly and hunt successfully in the rain because of their waterproof feathers and unique oil gland at the base of their tail.
However, if owls are exposed to lengthy periods of rain or are immersed in water, their feathers might become wet and lose their waterproofing.
When this happens, owls will engage in wing-drying behavior to shake off excess water and restore their waterproofing.
Barn Owl feathers are not particularly waterproof, and they generally avoid hunting in rain as wet feathers increase noise and reduce efficiency.
How Do Owls Manage To Stay Dry In Rainy Conditions?
Owls do not have waterproof feathers, which means that if they get wet, their feathers become heavy and it becomes harder for them to fly. However, they have developed adaptations to help them stay dry in rainy conditions.
Here are some ways owls manage to stay dry in rainy conditions:
- Spreading their wings: To prevent their feathers from getting wet, owls will spread their wings when it rains.
By doing so, they create a canopy that covers their entire body and keeps them dry.
- Avoiding flying: Owls really struggle to fly when the weather is extremely wet, so generally, they will not fly in the rain.
They can fly in mild rainfall, but heavy rainfall makes flying difficult and therefore hunting is impossible, and owls may starve.
- Hunting from a perch: Owls may choose to hunt from a perch during rainy conditions to avoid getting wet.
- Finding shelter: Owls may seek shelter under trees or other structures to avoid getting wet.
- Waiting out the rain: Owls may wait out the rain until it stops before resuming their activities.
Do Different Species Of Owls Have Varying Levels Of Waterproofing Abilities?
Different species of owls have varying levels of waterproofing abilities.
While some owls have waterproof feathers and unique oil glands at the base of their tail, others do not.
For example, the feather adaptation that allows silent flight means that barn owl feathers are not waterproof. To retain the softness and silent flight, the barn owl cannot use the preen oil or powder dust that other species use for waterproofing.
In wet weather, they cannot hunt and this may be disastrous during the breeding season.
Barn owls are frequently found drowned in livestock drinking troughs, since they land to drink and bathe, but are unable to climb out.In general, owls do not like to get wet in the rain, but they can continue to fly and hunt successfully in the rain because of their waterproof feathers and unique oil gland at the base of their tail. However, if they are exposed to lengthy periods of rain or are immersed in water, their feathers might become wet and lose their waterproofing.
When this happens, owls will engage in wing-drying behavior to shake off excess water and restore their waterproofing. Owls can maintain their body temperature by spreading their wings and shaking off excess water, which is especially important for owls living in colder climates, as getting wet can significantly impact their ability to stay warm.In terms of camouflage, the colors of an owl’s feathers help it blend in with the natural environment and keep it warm. Snowy Owls have white feathers that help them hide in their snowy habitat, while Flammulated Owls have dark feathers that help camouflage them when tucked up against a tree.
Grassland species have light brown feathers to match the tan grasses and the brown earth. Owls also use tufts to help camouflage themselves, and many stand tall and pull their feathers in tightly, making the owls skinnier and harder to see.
Are There Any Adaptations In An Owl’s Feathers Or Body Structure That Contribute To Their Waterproofing Ability?
Owls have several adaptations in their feathers and body structure that contribute to their waterproofing ability.
While bird feathers aren’t naturally completely waterproof, birds are constantly grooming or preening themselves to remove dirt, dust, and parasites from their feathers while also straightening feathers to their best shape and position
. However, not all birds are waterproof.
Owls, pigeons, parrots, and hawks don’t have a preen gland.
Instead, they have powder down feathers that disintegrate into tiny particles of keratin forming a fine powder similar to talcum powder.
The powder is slightly oily and sticks to the feathers, helping keep some water away.
These birds are less likely to completely immerse themselves in water, so they don’t have the level of waterproofing that waterfowl require.Owls have a suite of unique wing and feather features that enable them to reduce locomotion-induced sound.
Those smaller streams of air are further dampened by a velvety texture unique to owl feathers and by a soft fringe on a wing’s trailing edge.
These structures together streamline the air flow and absorb the sound produced. Some owls have narrower combs, meaning less noise-quieting by their feathers, compared to owls eating other types of prey.
Some owls, such as the Tawny Fish Owl and insect-eating Burrowing Owl, had little-to-no comb at all.
Owls hunting mammals have increased comb width, more quieting, compared to owls hunting insects. Owls can wrestle to maintain heat, due to their lack of waterproofing, so giant numbers of downy feathers assist them to retain body warmth.