Here are reasons why Owls appear supernatural:
They swoop in silently because of downy feathers. Without a warning the owl’s powerful talons silently crushes the mouse. Fan an owl’s feather compared to another bird’s feather to hear the difference.
Owls have amazing night vision and can see in almost complete darkness.
Their hearing is also superior and they can pinpoint a mouse’s footsteps despite other ambient sounds. At a raptor center, there was one barn owl that was nervous around a handler. It detected that she had a heart murmur.
They have a ravenous (sorry ravens) appetite. Researchers found that one barn owl family can consume 3,000 voles/year. Owls are our best ally in eating rodent pests. The owl regurgitates undigested bones and fur called owl pellets or castings. Finding such pellets might have inspired ancient people to associate owls with death.
Other reasons why owls contributed to eerie legends:
Often owl vocalizations and screeching cans sound very human and even evil.
Seeing a white owl at night might have been one of the reasons the lore of white ghosts evolved. Even recently mystery lights can possibly be blamed on owls. Or what about those aliens we call the greys with their owlish faces and huge black barn owl like eyes?
Also, owls consume a lot of what we see as vermin, young rats, mice, rabbits and other small mammals who enjoy eating our cash crops or garden veggies. That they also occasionally eat song birds and snakes. Birds will often be seen mobbing owls. Did we identify with diurnal birds who deem the owl as a threat?
So step outside and listen for the owl. If you do, thank him/her for keeping our rodent population down and wish them a Hooty Owl-o-ween. Hoot me comments.