Owls, especially the larger ones, were favourites of the Iroquois and Micmac (Mi'kmaq) [1, 2]. Attawapiskat, James Bay and Mistissini Cree were also known to eat owl [3-6]. Owl was one of the few birds of prey consumed by the Red Earth Cree  and was especially savoured by the Kaska [8, 9]. Owls were known to be abundant to Algonquian and Iroquois of the Mississippi Valley, the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes .
The Iroquois, Micmac and others boiled the birds until half-cooked and then roasted them [1, 2]. The Attawapiskat also boiled owl with heart, lungs and kidneys still attached . Among the Plains Cree, the liver, heart and gizzard were eaten, but not the kidneys. The head was sometimes boiled in soup [12, 13].
Uses other than food
Some cultures considered the owl to have medicinal powers. The oil collected from cooking owl was used as medicine by the Iroquois and Micmac [1, 2]. Some Yukon cultures did not consume owl, but shamans consulted them for their expertise [14, 15]. The Blackfoot also respected the owl’s medicinal powers .
Some peoples used the owl feathers. The Kaska used owl feathers to tip special arrows designed for hunting grouse and spruce hen. Each arrow had two or three feathers . The Lillooet, Tahltan, and some Arctic peoples also made arrows with owl feathers [17-19]. In the Yukon, owls were hunted for their feather spines to make snares or to use the feathers in arrows and rituals . The Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw) hunted owls for their plumage as well as for their meat .
Beliefs and taboos
Consuming owl was considered taboo for many. The Coast Salish, Chilcotin, Gitksan (Gitxsan), Tlingit, Stalo and others were strongly opposed to eating owl [21-25].
The owl was highly regarded by many cultures that used this bird as a clan symbol. Owls were associated by the Pueblo with dusk, the night and the moon. Similarly, the Mystic Owl Society hung owl skin in their lodge to symbolize the night darkness .
In the Yukon, the owl was associated with the supernatural and held great ceremonial significance . The owl was sometimes featured in Arctic stories. The legend of the greedy owl tells of an owl, a raven, a gull, a falcon and a skua living in a cave in human form. When trying to please a new guest, each bird went in search of the best food, but the owl tried to chase two hares at once, tearing himself in two .
Stories of owls were often used to frighten or discipline children in the Yukon . The Kutenai (Kootenai) also frightened children into good behaviour with tales that the owl would come to take them away .
The Shuswap hunter blew on his arrow before shooting an owl, believing this would ensure he would hit the target . In the Yukon, it was thought that owls pleaded to their hunters not to shoot. Some cultures believed that owls flying and hooting nearby warned of bad luck, death and disaster [14, 16] and the rapidity of an owl’s hooting was thought to predict the weather: for example, a slow hoot in morning foretells a warm day .
Snowy Owls were consumed by several Arctic cultures and by more southern cultures, when available. The Snowy Owl was prized for its superior taste by the Han, but this bird was rarely available . The Snowy Owl is reported to have been eaten in winter by Nuvorugmiut (Inuvialuit) and Ontario First Nations [30, 31]. The Peel River Kutchin (Gwich’in) relished Snowy Owls . Inuit and Kaska also hunted Snowy Owl in winter when other food was scarce [8, 9]. The Hare (Sahtu) also hunted the Snowy Owl for food . Arctic peoples ate Snowy Owl flesh and blood raw [17, 34]; however, many cultures cooked the bird. A Snowy Owl’s wing was also made into a broom to sweep out igloos .
Great Horned Owls were hunted for food by the Hare (Sahtu)  and, on occasion, by the Peel River Kutchin (Gwich’in) . The Han considered Great Horned Owls as a welcome treat .
Great Gray Owls were eaten on occasion by the Peel River Kutchin (Gwich’in)  and considered as a welcome treat by the Han .
The Arikara used the skin of the Burrowing Owls to make medicine parcels .
The Arikara used the skin of Long-eared Owls to make medicine parcels .
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Owls are medium-sized birds of prey that most often hunt in complete silence between dusk and dawn. Like other birds of prey, they have a hooked beak to tear flesh, strong legs with sharp talons to grasp their prey, and a very keen eye sight. Owls have very large forward-looking eyes, most often bright yellow in colour, and a head that can rotate to allow a 360º view. Most species have excellent hearing and a round facial feather disk directing sounds to their ears to precisely locate prey. In owls, like in eagles and hawks, females are larger than males and the two sexes form monogamous couples. They nest in natural cavities in trees or on the ground. Owls hunt by flying close to the ground or dropping downward from a perch and most prey on birds, small mammals, or insects . In North America, species of owls include the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), the Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa), the Long-eared Owl (Asio otus), and the Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia).
The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large species of owl with a circumpolar distribution. In North America, they breed in the tundra along Arctic coastlines and most spend the winter south of their breeding range throughout most of Canada and northern United States. Snowy Owls nest on the ground, usually in a shallow pit, situated on high, dry ground, offering good visibility. The Snowy Owl is closely related to the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), but has a very distinct appearance, having a unique all-white plumage with some dark brown barrings, especially in females and juveniles. They have dense feathers covering almost entirely their beak and feet. They live to around 10 years of age and weigh around 2 kg. They feed mainly on small mammals, particularly on lemmings on their breeding grounds .
The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is a large species of owl occurring year-round throughout North America south of the Arctic tree line. They are most closely related to the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), but more closely resemble the Long-eared Owl (Asio otus). Great Horned and Long-eared Owls both have a buff brown plumage, rusty facial disks, a black beak, and obvious eartuffs, but the Great Horned Owl is chunkier, weighing up to 2.5 kg, and has eartuffs that are farther apart on the head, and a white chin and neck. They mostly hunt from a perch and take mainly mammals, but also birds. Great Horned Owls use a wide variety of nests, preferring tree nests of other species, but also use tree cavities and cliffs, and will occasional nest on the ground. They are one of the longest lived owls and can reach over 20 years old .
The Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) is a large owl species occurring year-round in northern North America, from western Quebec to Alaska and south along the Rocky Mountains. They are most closely related to other species of North American owls, like the Spotted and Barred Owl, all within the same genus. Great Gray Owls are grayish brown with paler underparts and weigh between 0.9 and 1.7 kg. They have a large rounded head, no eartuffs, and wide pale gray facial disks with a white mustache-like pattern below their yellow beak. They are rodent specialists and are good at locating prey under deep snow .
The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) is a small owl species occurring in grassland and arid habitats from the Canadian Prairies throughout western North America. In Canada, they are listed by COSEWIC as endangered. They are mostly brown with white spots and a paler belly, with whitish eyebrows, mustache facial stripes, and very long legs. They are most often ground-dwelling, feeding mainly on insects, and nest in underground communal burrows .
The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) is a medium-sized owl species occurring year-round throughout most of southern Canada and of northern and western United States. They closely resemble the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) with their buff brown plumage, rusty facial disks, black beak, and obvious eartuffs, but the Long-eared Owl is slimmer, weighing between 220 and 435 g, has longer eartuffs that are closer together on the head, and lacks the white chin and neck .
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