Recently I've been thinking about the colour of owl eyes, and trying to figure out if there is a pattern anywhere between species.

I have read for example, that yellow-eyes implies they are day time hunters.

Is this true, and if so what do other owl eye colours indicate about their behaviour?


1 Answer 1


No, there isn't a perfect link between eye colour and behaviour

The full claim, as reproduced here is as follows:

  • Yellow eyes point to day-active species, such as little owl.
  • Orange eyes indicate that the species is active at dusk and dawn, such as long-eared owl (Asio otus).
  • Black eyes are for night-active species, such as tawny owl (Strix aluco).

However that same page also provides exceptions:

... a team of Spanish ornithologists gathered data on eye color and activity rhythm for over 200 owl species. The analyses revealed that dark irises were more frequent among strictly nocturnal owls (41 out of 70 nocturnal species) compared to owls that are active during or at the end of the day (37 out of 131 diurnal or crepuscular species). These numbers indicate that the statement from the television show was too general. There are plenty of exceptions to the rule. To name just two: the barn owl (Tyto alba) is diurnal and crepuscular but has pitch-black eyes. And the Sokoke scops owl (Otus ireneae) has bright eyes despite being active at night.

emphasis mine


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