How many bones do owls have?


Ever wondered how many bones make up the mysterious creature, the owl? It’s a fascinating question to think about. This article delves into the intricacies of owl anatomy, revealing surprising facts like owls have double the neck vertebrae compared to humans! Stick around and we’ll unmask all there is to know about these unique creatures in our detailed discussion on their bone structure.

Trust me, it’s way more interesting than you’d imagine!

Key Takeaways

  • Owls have double the number of neck vertebrae compared to humans, with 14 vertebrae in their necks, allowing them to turn their heads almost 270 degrees.
  • The total number of bones in owls can vary depending on the species, but they generally have around 200 bones that make up about 7-9% of their total body weight.
  • One of the key features of an owl’s skeletal system is its hollow bones, which are lightweight and reinforce strength-to-weight ratio for effortless flight and silent hunting.


The Skeletal System of Owls

Owls have a unique skeletal system, with variations in the number of bones and distinct differences in their neck vertebrae compared to humans.

Variation in number of bones

The owl’s skeletal system is a fascinating collection of intricately designed bones, demonstrating natural mastery in evolution. Unlike our human skeleton, many of the bones found in an owl are fused together instead of being separated – a unique trait among avians.

This fusion contributes greatly to their structured stability during flight. Interestingly, the total number of these intricate structures can vary depending on the specific type of owl species under consideration — no one-size-fits-all here! For instance, while certain types have a higher bone count due to size and adaptational necessities, others may contain fewer bones due to streamlined body structure for specialized environments or hunting techniques.

Thus, each species brandishes a different arrangement and total number within their respective skeletal systems.

Difference in neck vertebrae

Owls have a fascinating difference in their neck vertebrae compared to humans. While humans have seven neck bones, owls have double that number with 14 vertebrae in their necks. This unique adaptation allows owls to turn their heads nearly three-quarters of the way around without moving their bodies.

Their increased flexibility is due to a specialized groove in their neck bones, which gives them the ability to swivel their heads in such an impressive manner. This incredible range of motion helps owls locate prey and keeps them aware of their surroundings even while perched or flying.

So, next time you spot an owl effortlessly turning its head, remember that it’s all thanks to those extra neck bones!

Importance of hollow bones for flight

Owls have a fascinating skeletal system that plays a crucial role in their ability to fly. One of the key features of an owl’s bones is their hollowness. Hollow bones are incredibly lightweight, allowing owls to achieve effortless flight and maneuverability in the air.

These hollow bones are also reinforced with a lattice-like structure that keeps them strong and resilient.

The hollow nature of owl bones not only reduces their overall weight but also enables them to optimize their strength-to-weight ratio, enabling swift, silent flights when hunting prey.

This feature is especially important for owls as they rely on surprise attacks to catch their food efficiently. Additionally, having lighter bones allows owls to conserve energy during long flights or migration.

Furthermore, the hollow spaces within owl bones play another vital role – they serve as reservoirs for air sacs that help regulate oxygen flow during flight. These air sacs provide an efficient respiratory system by continuously supplying fresh oxygenated air while removing carbon dioxide from the bird’s body.

How Owls Swivel Their Heads

Owls can swivel their heads thanks to their unique neck bones, which have double the number of vertebrae compared to humans and a special groove for added flexibility.

Double the number of neck vertebrae compared to humans

Owls have a remarkable ability to turn their heads almost 270 degrees, and this is due to their unique skeletal system. Unlike humans who have seven neck vertebrae, owls have double that number with 14 cervical vertebrae.

This means that the bones in an owl’s neck are more flexible and allow for greater movement. The extra vertebrae provide owls with the extraordinary range of motion needed to swivel their heads so far around.

It’s just one of the many fascinating adaptations that make owls such incredible creatures.

Unique groove in neck bones for flexibility

Owls have a fascinating skeletal adaptation that allows them to exhibit their incredible head swivel. This is made possible by a unique groove in their neck bones, which adds flexibility and range of motion.

Unlike human neck vertebrae that are cylindrical, owl neck bones are flattened and feature this specialized groove. This distinctive design enables owls to rotate their heads almost three-quarters of the way around without causing any discomfort or injury.

With 14 different neck bones compared to humans’ seven, owls possess an extraordinary ability to scan their surroundings effortlessly and swiftly spot prey or potential threats. It’s just one of the many remarkable features in the skeleton of these nocturnal hunters.

The Number of Bones in Owls

Owls have varying numbers of bones, with the exact count depending on the species.

Approximate total number of bones in owls

Owls have an approximate total of 200 bones in their bodies, though this number can vary slightly depending on the species. These bones make up about 7-9% of an owl’s total body weight.

Unlike mammals, where the bones are separated, many of the bones in owls are fused together for added strength and stability. This includes their skull, spine, and pelvic bones. With their unique skeletal system and adaptations like hollow and lightweight bones, owls are perfectly designed for flight and hunting prowess.

Variation among owl species

Owls may look relatively similar on the outside, but the number of bones they carry can vary substantially based on the species. It’s important to note that these differences are often adaptations that help each species survive and thrive in their specific habitats.












Species of Owl Number of Bones Unique Features
Great Horned Owl Approximately 200 14 neck vertebrae, allowing for significant head rotation.
Barn Owl Approximately 250 Lightweight, hollow bones for efficient flight.
Snowy Owl Approximately 210 14 neck vertebrae for head mobility in hunting prey.
Screech Owl Approximately 225 Thinner bones for agile flight through trees.


These variations in bone numbers and features are perfectly suited for each owl’s lifestyle and hunting methods. From the Great Horned Owl’s impressive neck flexibility to the Screech Owl’s agile flight, the skeletal system of owls is a fascinating display of nature’s adaptability.


In conclusion, owls have a unique skeletal system that allows them to be skilled predators and efficient flyers. With their double the number of neck vertebrae compared to humans and specialized adaptations like hollow bonesowls can swivel their heads almost all the way around.

While the exact number of bones in owls varies among different species, their skeletal structure is truly remarkable and contributes to their outstanding hunting abilities. The intricate design of owl skeletons showcases nature’s incredible adaptability and diversity.


1. How many bones do owls have in their bodies?

Owls have approximately 200 bones in their bodies, which is about twice the number that humans have.

2. Are all of an owl’s bones hollow?

Not all of an owl’s bones are hollow. While some of their long bones, like their femurs and humerus, are indeed hollow to reduce weight for flight, many other bones in their body are solid to provide strength and support.

3. What purpose do an owl’s extra neck vertebrae serve?

An owl has more neck vertebrae than most other bird species, allowing it to turn its head up to 270 degrees in either direction without moving its body. This enhanced flexibility helps them scan their surroundings for prey without needing to move too much.

4. Do owls have any unique or specialized bone structures?

Yes, owls possess several unique bone structures that aid in their hunting capabilities. For example, they have asymmetrically serrated wing feathers that reduce noise during flight and specialized talons designed for gripping and immobilizing prey effectively.

Julian Goldie - Owner of

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.