The owl is mentioned several times in the Bible (Lev. 11:16-17; Ps. 102:6; Jer. 50:39; Mic. 1:8). The largest species native to Palestine is the great owl, sometimes called an eagle owl. Several varieties of smaller owls are also common. Among them are screech owls, whose calls and whistles bring an eerie feeling in the night.
Other varieties of owls mentioned by different translations of the Bible include the short-eared owl (Lev. 11:16), (NKJV, NEB); long-eared owl (Lev. 11:16), (NEB); horned owl (Lev. 11:16), (NIV); little owl (Lev. 11:17), (KJV, NIV, NASB); tawny owl (Lev. 11:17), (NEB); fisher owl (Lev. 11:17), (NKJV); desert owl (Lev. 11:18), (NIV); and white owl (Lev. 11:18), (NKJV, NIV, NASB).
The owl is no wiser than any other bird, but his facial features give him a thoughtful and solemn look. Owls have round faces with a circle of feathers around their heads, framing and highlighting their large eyes. These feathers also serve as a sound collector for the ears. An owl’s fluffy feathers make him appear larger than he actually is. They also enable him to fly silently, since the edges of the feathers pierce the air with little wind resistance.
Owls have good night vision, which enables them to stalk their prey at night. Unlike other birds, whose eyes are set on opposite sides of their head, the owl looks directly ahead. He navigates in the dark mostly by sound. Alerted by a noise, he plunges in toward his prey with his claws spread for the kill.
Owls serve a useful agricultural purpose, since they feed on rats, mice, and other rodents. But the Hebrew people considered the owl an unclean bird and often associated it with scenes of desolation. The scops owl may be the satyr of such verses as (Isaiah 13:21) and (34:14) (night creature, NKJV). It has a horned look and does a hop-like dance much like a goat.