"Owls are magical creatures most often used for delivering post and parcels in the wizarding world. They are known for their speed and discretion and can find recipients without an address."

Owls are birds of prey. They belong to the order of Strigiformes and there are at least 200 species. They normally feed on small mammals, insects, and other birds. They do not make nests, instead sheltering inside trees, ground burrows, caves, and barns, or using other birds' old nests.

Normally, most British owls are nocturnal, and owls generally keep to themselves, but in the wizarding world they serve many needed functions and have many sorts of personalities. Owls also appear to understand magical people speaking English and can communicate with wizards and witches.

Postal workers

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Owl post

Owls are enlisted to aid communication between wizards. Letters, parcels, and Howlers are all delivered by owls. Soft, hair-like edges on an owl's flight feathers reduce the noise of flight, coupled with their natural camouflage, making them ideal for delivering letters.[2]

Owls must be trained to carry letters. Owls have a natural affinity to magic (unlike pigs, which are thoroughly non-magical), and thus can find the recipient of a letter without an address. Because owls can find any witch or wizard who a letter is addressed to, those who do not wish to be contacted must cast Repelling, Disguising, or Masking spells, of which a wide variety exist.[3]

Owls are used for commercial purposes, such as those used for the Owl Post Office in Hogsmeade, and for delivering newspapers and magazines such as the Daily Prophet and The Quibbler. The Ministry of Magic formerly used owls for interdepartmental memos, but switched to enchanted paper aeroplanes because owls made too much mess with their droppings and shed feathers.

Postal owls all have different jobs, but scops owls are enlisted for local deliveries only, as they are small and weak fliers.

Known owls

Screenshot 969

Owl of Minerva McGonagall

See also

Behind the scenes

OWL carrying a message

Owl carrying a message

Brilliant Post Owl WU

Post owl as seen in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

  • During the production of the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, an attempt was made to train bats to carry letters, but this was abandoned because bats urinate during flight.
  • It took trainers three months to train owls to carry letters for the films.
  • In April 2009, a falconer whose owls starred in the Harry Potter films admitted a string of animal cruelty offences.[5]
  • It is unknown if, like humans, some owls are born with magical abilities, or if there is any other special requirement for an owl to be trained as a delivery owl. It is a popular fan theory, however, that the delivery owls are magical owls, which would explain their apparent greater intelligence (such as their understanding of addresses spoken in English and their occasional character quirks), though they admittedly do little to demonstrate sentience in the series proper.
  • In many legends, owls represent death, but in other legends, like those of Ancient Greece, owls are a symbol of wisdom. In India, owls are birds of ill omen.
  • In reality, the Brown Owl and the tawny owl are the same species (Strix aluco), but the Harry Potter books treat them as different types of owl.
  • In an issue of The Quibbler seen in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, an advertisement offering Owl-training can be seen, suggesting this is a business in the Wizarding World.
  • At some point following the publication of the Harry Potter books, there was a series of media reports regarding an upswing in the popularity of owls as pets, allegedly as a result of people having read about them in the books. Author J. K. Rowling stated on her official website "If it is true that anybody has been influenced by my books to think that an owl would be happiest shut in a small cage and kept in a house, I would like to take this opportunity to say as forcefully as I can: please don't."[6]
  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, there are many owls trying to bring Harry Hogwarts letters. In the book, Harry first learns that owls carry letters when Rubeus Hagrid uses one in the Hut on the rock.
  • The Pottermore Patronus quiz contains several types of owls including the little owl, the eagle owl, and the snowy owl.
  • In real life, owls are no smarter than any other bird; with some considering them to be of low intelligence, as a large portion of the head is taken up by the eyes. However, intelligence is not solely determined by brain size, and owls are indeed clever in their own right.


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Notes and references

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