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Do Owls Have Knees? 5 Important Things To Know!

Do Owls Have Knees? 5 Important Things To Know!

Do Owls Have Knees? There are many species of owls. Depending upon location, owls can be very different from each other. There are about 300 different species worldwide. They can vary from extra-large to tiny, and some are endemic to the USA alone.

According to the American Bird Conservancy of the United States, 19 types are most common in the USA, and since 1990 many have become endangered. 1.-(Joe Lowe, NBC, USA, 1/21/2022). The most common seems to be the barn owl, and as implied by its name lives in barns on farms. 

The largest owl in the world is the Great Gray Owl. It does live in the Northern Hemisphere. The Elf Owl is the smallest owl on record and there is even a world’s “smartest” owl. 

However, owls are not known for their intelligence overall as they are solitary and do not travel in flocks so do not learn from each other but they have an intelligence of their type in being cunning. 

A group of owls is not even called a flock, but a “parliament”. Even in a parliament, they do not travel together and are known for their stealth more than their intelligence. 


Do Owls Have Real Knees? 

Owls have real knees, but these predators have very long legs and go on the hunt at night, so it is very difficult to see the patella or kneecap. They can look clumsy but are one of the swiftest of all bird predators. 


Do Owls Have Knees? 

Do Owls Have Knees?


5 Ways to Prove Owls Have Knees


1. Through the study of owl biology

Researchers throughout the years have studied owls and the makeup of their leg bones and because they perch it seems they do not have knees.

However, the long legs are tucked under the body when perching and therefore give the impression of not having knees. Look online for this fact as all conservationists and sanctuaries have discovered this. 

Study Of Owl Biology

Study Of Owl Biology


2. By observation of a perched owl

You can get relatively close to a perched owl in a tree or barn as they are fairly brave. If you will notice, the legs will be bent backward, giving the impression of not having knees but the knees are just not visible. 

Be careful when doing this, however, as owls are not timid and do not scare easily, and can attack especially when the young are present.

Owls also can mistake an individual’s head for prey, believe it or not, and if threatened by you will attack to ward off your perceived attack. 

Observation Of A Perched Owl

Observation Of A Perched Owl


3. By finding an owl’s nest and peering into it

If you are lucky enough and cautious enough to do this carefully, you can likely see the youngsters’ knees more easily than that of a mature owl as the feathers have not covered the legs yet and they are not perching yet either. But again, caution is advised as mother owls are extremely aggressive. 

Finding An Owl’s Nest And Peering Into It

Finding An Owl’s Nest And Peering Into It


4. Watch an owl in flight outside its roost

The legs are extended then and the knees are apparent. The length of the legs will be surprising to you as they can almost match the entire length of the body and the legs are muscular as they are used to kill prey. 

While roosting owls squat and this is why it only looks like they are all body and ankles and do not have knees. 

Owl In Flight

Owl In Flight


5. Observe an owl that is killing prey

This is the best way to discern if owls have knees. Owls will focus on the prey, swoop down, extend their legs, and then use their heavy talons to immobilize the prey before they lift it. 

The entire leg, including the knees, is seen when watching an owl kill prey. An owl will then take the prey in flight and again the entire leg is seen.

One word of warning though. Owls are fiercely strong and can even prey on cats and kittens. They are the “bodybuilders” of the bird world so do not underestimate them.  

Observe An Owl That Is Killing Prey

Observe An Owl That Is Killing Prey


Frequently Asked Questions About Do Owls Have Knees


1. Do all owls have knees? 

Owls do have knees, or they would not be able to hunt sufficiently as the legs must be mobile and bendable. When roosting, owls squat on their feet and talons to stay balanced so it looks to most observers that there are no knees.


2. If an owl attacks me, can it harm me? 

Owls can harm you if they attack. The talons and legs are very strong and some owls, especially if a nest or youngsters are close by will keep attacking. Owls are not afraid of humans and therefore not easily scared away. They are airborne so have the advantage. Tearing your scalp can happen.


3. Can owls break their knees? 

Like any other living creature, bones exist in an owl’s knees and can be broken. An owl that has a broken leg or knee cannot roost and therefore cannot rest and usually cannot hunt well so eventually dies. If you find an owl with a broken leg it needs to be taken to a rehabilitator.


Summary On Do Owls Have Knees

They do and the knees are a crucial part of their existence. Trying to observe an owl can be dangerous and one with a broken leg or knee needs immediate attention from a sanctuary or rehabilitator. 

You can intervene and capture them but safety measures should be in place. Never try to pick up an owl without covering it first with a blanket, as even a broken leg or knee does not mean it cannot use its beak or its talons to harm you.