A video of fluffy baby owls staring blankly into the camera has become an unlikely star on social media, thanks to their uncanny resemblance to aliens. But the connection between these nocturnal birds and extraterrestrial beings may not be as far-fetched as it seems.
In the video, posted on Twitter by user Daniel Holland (@DannyDutch), a group of baby barn owls are seen standing in a row, with their big eyes and round faces giving them a distinctively otherworldly appearance. The clip has since gone viral, racking up millions of views and prompting amusing reactions from people around the world.
While the video is certainly adorable and entertaining, some scientists have pointed out that it could also serve a more serious purpose. According to them, the owls’ appearance and behavior can shed light on the psychological factors that underlie claims of alien sightings and abductions.
In a 2018 paper published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Helsinki, Finland, analyzed reports of alien encounters and compared them to the known features and behaviors of owls. They found that many descriptions of alien beings closely matched the physical and behavioral characteristics of owls, such as their large eyes, silent flight, and habit of perching on tree branches or rooflines.
The researchers argued that these similarities could be explained by a psychological phenomenon known as “experiential anomaly,” which occurs when people encounter something that contradicts their expectations and beliefs about the world. When faced with a perceived threat or unusual experience, the brain may generate a false memory or perception that fits with the person’s existing beliefs and cultural narratives. In some cases, this could lead people to interpret a sighting of a common bird as an encounter with an alien or supernatural being.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Annekatrin Puhle, told Live Science that the baby owl video offers a useful example of how experiential anomaly can work. “When you see these little owlets, they really look like aliens, and we can laugh about it because we know they’re just owlets,” she said. “But if you take that one step further and you have a person who is already primed to see something extraordinary or paranormal or supernatural, then they might misinterpret what they see.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that all claims of alien sightings can be explained by owls or other mundane explanations. Some sightings may be hoaxes, misidentifications of natural phenomena, or even genuine encounters with unknown entities. But the baby owl video and the scientific research behind it offer a thought-provoking perspective on the complex and often mysterious nature of human perception and belief.
As for the baby owls themselves, they are likely unaware of their newfound fame and continue to grow up in the safety of their barn nest, practicing their hunting skills and eventually leaving the nest to explore the world on their own. And who knows – maybe they will encounter some real extraterrestrial life forms one day, and have a good laugh about it.