The Incredible Shapeshifting Transformer Owl

When you think of an animal using camouflage as a survival technique the first thing that comes to mind is perhaps an animal like a gecko blending into the background, but the Southern White Faced Scops Owl from South Africa goes far above and beyond simply blending in.

The Southern White Faced Scops Owl is small, only about 20cm tall and is noted for its very small orange eyes and non-camouflaging white stomach feathers. This small owl is a rare sight in the wild, but not endangered.

Like all owls it has thick feathers and their actual bodies are not that big so they can change sizes by puffing up or flattening down their feathers, and the owl is among the most adept in controlling this technique.

White-faced Scops OwlPhoto: Neli T

A perfect example of how they master their feathers can be seen when faced with the Barn Owl for example, which is only slightly larger than itself, the Southern White Faced Scops Owl puffs itself up to look as big as possible in an effort to scare the Barn Owl away. When faced with a second, much larger owl, however, it does the exact opposite. By elongating its body, flattening its feathers, and squinting its eyes, this little owl mimics a dead branch in the hopes of camouflaging itself from the larger bird. This is a pretty amazing and odd-looking adaptation, which has earned this wonderful little creature the nickname of the Transformer Owl.

Southern White-faced Scops OwlPhoto: Akihiro

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