Owls are man's best friend as they are great pest controllers.

J.K. Rowling, with her Harry Potter series, has unknowingly got many children around the world interested in owls. Children have been inspired to learn more about these amazing birds.

Unfortunately, these mysterious birds are generally feared by man and as they are mostly solitary and nocturnal, we have depicted them as horrific creatures in most of our art, movies and literature.

Aashish Pittie, president of the Bird Watchers Society of Andhra Pradesh, says, “They should be considered as our greatest “friends”, as they prey on pests, like rats, and mice, among many other animals.

Thus they help control the population of these creatures saving a very large quantity of food grains that the rodents might have destroyed.” There are around 250 species of owls found all over the world. India is home to around 35 species, five of which are endemic to the sub continent. owls are a group of birds which belong to the order Strigiformes. They are found all over the world except in Antartica, Greenland and some remote islands.

Some of the owls that are commonly seen in Hyderabad and other parts of the State are, the barn owl, the spotted owlet, the great horned owl, the collared scops owl, the brown hawk owl and the short eared owl, just to name a few.

“All owl species are not endangered. Some of them are commonly seen around us. These carnivorous birds are on the top of their specific food chain feeding on a large number of small mammals, insects, fish and snakes”, adds Pittie.

Major threats

The major threats to these interesting creatures arise from a lack of awareness about them, loss of habitat and trade for religious and ornamental purposes.

“People know very little about owls and most of them don't even consider them as worthwhile birds,” says G Ranganath, a Std. IX student of Indus World School, Secundrabad. “More information about these birds should be spread among the people so that they are respected and not hated and feared”, he adds.

The Bird Watcher's Society of Andhra Pradesh conducts monthly field trips, which children and adults are encouraged to attend to learn about our rich avi fauna.

For more information one can contact the Honorary Secretary Mr Shafaat Ulla @ 9849229552 or Mr Aashish Pittie @ 996670212

All about owls

· They are far sighted and can see well in dim light too.

· To blend with their surroundings, they are able to mimic the coloration and texture patterns from their habitat.

· They do not build nests, but lay their eggs in sheltered nesting sites like underground burrows and caves.

· Stealth and surprise is their hunting strategy.

· The collective noun for a group of owls is a “parliament”.

· The world's smallest owl is the Elf Owl, which is 5.3 inches tall.

· The world's largest owls are the Eurasian Eagle Owl and the Blakistons Fish Owl, which are 28.4 inches tall.