If you’re like many Americans (or foreigners keen on seeing what passes for entertainment among Yanks), you’ll be spending Sunday evening parked in front of your TV. No, not for Girls or Downton Abbey, but to watch some of the funniest, tearjerkingest, dumbest, and most expensive commercials on TV all year. All of which will be interspersed around a certain “big game” that most media dare not name, for fear of getting sued by the National Football League.

Well, a clever elision of the game’s name has enabled folks to talk about it more freely, and has created an awesome meme. Ladies and gentlemen, I—and Stephen Colbert—give you the Superb Owl. It’s about time that owls get their due, beyond just Hedwig from Harry Potter which is probably the main reason why the public gives a hoot about another Snowy Owl invasion. (Image above courtesy of Frank Hildebrand, and below by Corey. Also, special “get well soon” to Washington, DC’s Snowy Owl.)


Yes, even though one of the teams competing in this year’s gridiron contest is the Eagles, the real stars are owls. Just ask the National Audubon Society. It not only has long promulgated the Superb Owl meme, but even wrangles an invite a while back for President and CEO David Yarnold to talk up the merits of owls on The Colbert Report.


Burrowing Owls photographed by James Currie

So just what makes an owl superb? Is it ghostly? Is it omnipresent? Is it tiny and elusive? Is it huge and elusive? Is it sacred? Is it wise? Is it named after a warrior princess?


Great Gray Owl image by Carlos Sanchez

There are probably as many different ways to answer that question as there are football teams. What gets your vote for superb-est owl, and why? And who would be on your fantasy Superb Owl team? Leave your picks in the comments. And if you’re looking for alternative to the Big Game on Sunday, you could do worse than the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet, which doesn’t have any owls but will feature live “tweets” from Meep the Bird (whom you can follow on Twitter at, what else, @MeepTheBird).


Stygian Owl as photographed by Renato Espinosa

(We actually ran this Superb Owl post years ago, but since the Eagles are representing birds this year, we didn’t need to change much!)

Written by Meredith Mann
The lowly Red-winged Blackbirds in suburban New York triggered Meredith Mann's interest in birds. Five years later, she's explored some of the the USA's coolest hotspots, from Plum Island in Massachusetts to the Magic Hedge in Chicago to the deserts of Fallon, Nevada. She recently migrated from the Windy City (where she proudly served as a Chicago Bird Collision Monitor, rescuing migrants from skyscrapers and sidewalks) to Philadelphia, where she plans to find new editing and writing gigs; keep up her cool-finds chronicle, Blog5B; and discover which cheesesteak really is the best. And she will accept any and all invitations to bird Cape May, NJ.