The feathers on the face of an owl serve many purposes. In addition to providing insulation and waterproofing, the face is framed by what biologists call the “facial disk”. These feathers are aligned to direct light in to the eyes, and sound in to the ears. The ears of a red screech owl are located under the facial disk feathers. Bird ears do not have lobes, as human ears do. The ear opening for an eastern screech owl is about the size of the tip of an adult woman’s pinkie finger.
The unique feathers on each side of the beak are called “rictal bristles”. These specially modified feathers work similarly to a cat’s whiskers, allowing far sighted owls the ability to feel their food while holding it in their talons.