[Kevin McGowan] As creatures of the night, owls can seem mysterious and kind of spooky. Some people think of them as bad omens, harbingers of death. But they can also be symbols of knowledge and wisdom.

Owls have fascinated people for millennia. Everyone knows what an owl is, even if you haven’t actually seen one in real life. They’re instantly recognizable, with their large, round heads, flat faces, and forward staring eyes. We seem to be drawn to them because they resemble people. They’re definitely birds, but they also kind of look like us.

Owls are birds, and they do the same kinds of things that all birds do: find food, preen their feathers, defend their territory, lay eggs and raise their young. But, unlike most other birds, owls do these things in the dark.

Hi, I’m Kevin McGowan. In this course we’ll investigate just what makes an owl an owl, and look at the diversity of owls throughout the world. We’ll explore owl “super powers” that let them own the night all around the globe.

We will examine the day to day life, or night to night life, of owls, looking at courting and breeding habits,
and how a baby owl goes from a downy fluff ball to an adult capable of hunting for itself.

We will listen in to the various hoots, toots, and screeches they make and talk about just what they are trying to say.

We will investigate the way that people have thought about and interacted with owls through the centuries and look at how owls are doing today.
We’ll talk about how to find owls, and what you can do to make a friendlier environment for owls near you.

Owls are just plain fascinating creatures. I hope you will join me in exploring the Wonderful World of Owls.

End of transcript

Get to Know Owls

As creatures of the night, owls are harder to get to know than other birds. With world-renowned birder and ornithologist Kevin McGowan as your guide, this course delivers a friendly and comprehensive look at what makes owls so special and samples the exciting diversity of the more than 200 species of owls worldwide.

  • Step into the extraordinary sensory world of owls
  • Discover what makes owls masterful hunters
  • Gain confidence in identifying owl sounds
  • Find out how to respectfully observe owls in the wild

The Wonderful World of Owls

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About This Course
  • Lessons inside: 5
  • Topics inside: 20
  • Completion time (estimated): 3 hours
  • Instructional videos: 16
  • Total instructional video time: 1.25 hours
  • Level: Beginner
  • Categories: Bird Biology, Nature Appreciation
  • Regionality: Anywhere – Non-regional
  • CEU credits: 0.3 (optional additional purchase)
  • Discussion groups to keep you learning
  • Self-paced, no expiration date, 100% online
  • 60-day refund guarantee
Barn Owl flying
Barn Owl

Why I Made This Course

"Owls are some of the most charismatic and enigmatic birds out there. Once you reach beyond the mystery and learn about their remarkable sensory powers, hunting techniques, lifestyle, and diversity, they become even more fascinating. And discovering where to look and listen for them so that you can build your own connection with wild owls is truly transformative. I built this course to share the wonder of owls with you. Join me!"

—Kevin McGowan, Ph.D., Course Instructor
Eurasian Eagle-Owl
Eurasian Eagle-Owl

What's Inside

Get to know owls like never before with Kevin McGowan as your guide. This self-paced course includes instructional videos, photo galleries, and interactive learning tools to help you explore the wonderful world of owls. Compare baby owls to their adult forms, spot camouflaged owls hidden in photos, learn to recognize owl sounds, find out what prey each owl prefers, and much more. Designed for anyone interested in owls, this course delivers a fun and comprehensive look at some of the most fascinating birds on the planet.

Take a Free Peek Inside the Course

Preview three example videos and one interactive from The Wonderful World of Owls

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Course Overview

Lesson 1:
What Makes an Owl an Owl

Learn what distinguishes owls from other birds and about their diversity. Find out which owls are the biggest, smallest, and most unusual.

Lesson 2:
How Owls Rule the Night

With keen eyesight, exceptional 3D hearing, powerful talons, and specialized feathers for silent flight, owls are hunting machines. Learn how they put it all together to catch their prey.

Lesson 3:
The Life of an Owl

Demystify owls by learning about their family life, migrations, hunting behaviors, and diets. Some food choices might surprise you!

Lesson 4:
Listening for Owls

Get to know owls by their distinctive calls and learn how they use sound to communicate. Then, see if you can tell what’s an owl and what’s not with our interactive learning tools.

Lesson 5:
Finding and Connecting with Owls

Discover tips for how to find owls, marvel at the many ways people have depicted owls through the ages, and learn what we can do to protect them.

Meet the Course Instructor

Kevin McGowan, Ph.D.
Professional Ornithologist, World Series of Birding Champion
Course instructor Kevin McGowan combines deep knowledge about birds with a passion for helping others learn. He is a professional ornithologist at...

Hear What Students Have to Say

My son and I loved this class! He enjoyed learning the owl calls, particularly "who cooks for you!"


It's a great course. Will require many viewings to fully absorb; promises to be a great resource to return to over and over again. Thank you."


This is a wonderful course! Thank you for offering it! And thanks for the opportunity to hear the owl encounters of others!"


I greatly enjoyed this course! It was so much fun learning all about owls... I had no idea there was so much variety in this bird family! ...I was also glad to study owl sounds and to learn new techniques for finding owls, engaging with them, and helping them continue their role as valuable predators in the ecosystems they inhabit."


What a fabulous course! It's encouraging me to investigate more of what eBird has to offer. I'm so thankful to have the chance to listen to owls who live halfway across the world, ones I'll never get to hear in real life."

Buy The Wonderful World of Owls Now!
Satisfaction Guarantee

Our educators and birding experts take pride in the courses they create. If you're not satisfied with the material for ANY reason, contact us within 60 days of the start of the course or purchase for a full refund.

Alternative Course Access

Birds can inspire people accross boundaries to build a more sustainable world. At Bird Academy we want to share the love and knowledge of birds! If you would like alternative access to this course, please take a look at our Take Flight Program

This Course is Entirely Online

There’s nothing to be shipped, and no additional material is necessary. Bird Academy courses are online, self-paced, and have no deadline to complete the course. You can return to them for reference or practice as often as you want. All course material, practice tools, instructional videos, and quizzes are available through your web browser. Learn anytime, anywhere*. Gain the skills and understanding you’re looking for.

*Requires an internet connection and a modern web browser.

Course Instructor and Author: Kevin McGowan
Course Producer: Laura Helft
Course Developers: Laura Helft, Marla Coppolino
Video Producer and Editor: Shayna Muller
Web and Graphic Designer: Jeff Szuc
Illustrators: Jeff Szuc, Marla Coppolino, Andrew Leach
Studio Producer: Benjamin Wendel, eCornell
Copy Editor: Noah Warnke
Executive Producer: Mya Thompson
Special Thanks: Bobby Stickel, Sophia Matthews, Joy Pojim, Katherine Welch, Lee Ann van Leer, Rachael Lambertson, David Keslick, the BirdCams team, Brooke Keeney, Chelsea deMott Widley, Gerrit Vyn, Chris Corrigan, and John Bowman

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