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Yes, some species of owls are long-legged birds

Do owls hide surprisingly long legs under their feathers?

In a graphic shared on Facebook in South Africa, an owl is shown standing, only its clawed feet visible below its coat of feathers. 

But in the next photo, the owl’s feathers have been lifted to reveal long skinny legs that seem to make up half the bird’s height.

The text reads: “How old were you when you found out that owls have long legs?”

The graphic was tagged as possibly false by Facebook’s fact-checking system. Are owls, despite appearances, leggy birds of prey?


Photos traced to Japan-based Twitter account

A TinEye reverse image search of the graphic’s first photo led us to its original, uncropped version.

It was first posted on a Japanese Twitter account, where the user shares daily cute stories of their pet owls. These include three barn owls, two Bengal eagle owls and an African eagle owl.

The second photo, of the owl’s long legs, was tweeted on the account on 15 August 2019. The first photo was posted a day later.

True for some owls, but not all

Danelle Murray from South Africa’s Owl Rescue Centre identified the bird as a Bengal eagle owl, “one of the bigger species of owls”. It’s known by the scientific name Bubo bengalensis and is mainly found on the Indian subcontinent.

“Owls do in fact have longer legs than what is visible – often concealed by feathers,” Murray told Africa Check. 

But Dr Karin Lourens from the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital said that wasn’t true for all owls.

“Some of the smaller owls have short legs,” she told us. So the graphic isn’t, she said, “entirely” true. – Laura Kapelari


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