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The animals on the cover of Mastering Regular Expressions, Third Edition, are owls. There are two families and approximately 180 species of these birds of prey distributed throughout the world, with the exception of Antarctica. Most species of owls are nocturnal hunters, feeding entirely on live animals, ranging in size from insects to hares.
Because they have little ability to move their large, forward-facing eyes, owls must move their entire heads in order to look around. They can rotate their heads up to 270 degrees, and some can turn their heads completely upside down. Among the physical adaptations that enhance owls’ effectiveness as hunters is their extreme sensitivity to the frequency and direction of sounds. Many species of owl have asymmetrical ear placement, which enables them to more easily locate their prey in dim or dark light. Once they’ve pinpointed the location, the owl’s soft feathers allow them to fly noiselessly and thus to surprise their prey.
While people have traditionally anthropomorphized birds of prey as evil and coldblooded creatures, owls are viewed differently in human mythology. Perhaps because their large eyes give them the appearance of intellectual depth, owls have been portrayed in folklore through ...