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This Super Bowl Sunday, it's the Bengals and Rams... and owls?


This Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams will battle the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. But while much of the country is preoccupied with football and cream cheese-based dips, others will spend the day cheering on another team, the owls.

RYAN MANDELBAUM: There are the Super Bowl watchers among us, and then there are the superb owl watchers among us.


That's Ryan Mandelbaum, a science writer and bird enjoyer.

MANDELBAUM: Instead of sitting inside and eating dip on Sunday, which is something I enjoy doing, we would prefer to enjoy the company of owls.

SHAPIRO: They're referring to Superb Owl Sunday, where birding enthusiasts take to social media en masse to post their favorite owl pics.

FLORIDO: If you haven't already figured out the joke, just tack the B from bowl onto the end of super and you get superb owl. The meme took off online in the late 2000s, and comedian Stephen Colbert took advantage of it on "The Colbert Report" in 2014 to avoid what he called the wrath of a litigious NFL.


STEPHEN COLBERT: I got to say, during the commercial break, I heard some scurrilous accusations that my superb owl coverage is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to get huge ratings by talking about Sunday's trademark, let's call it, sportgasm (ph) XLVIII.

SHAPIRO: The superb owl even got a nod a few years ago on the FX show "What We Do In The Shadows," when a group of vampires misunderstood their neighbor's invite to a Super Bowl party.


NATASIA DEMETRIOU: (As Nadja) The party we're going to is celebrating the superb owl, who is the greatest owl of all time. Do you think we're going to get to touch its little beak?

MATT BERRY: (As Laszlo) Depends what mood he's in.

SHAPIRO: So how do you actually celebrate Superb Owl Sunday? Well, wings probably are not on the menu.

MARTHA HARBISON: Take a walk in nature, especially at dawn and dusk, and listen for them. It's currently flirting season for owls, so there are a lot of them out there making a lot of noise, either looking for love or trying to defend territory.

FLORIDO: Martha Harbison is vice president of the Feminist Bird Club, a nonprofit in New York City. They suggest keeping a respectful distance from an owl's nest. If you really want a closer look, just search on Twitter or Instagram.

SHAPIRO: Now, the hashtag #SuperbOwl, as you might guess, will probably turn up a lot of football highlights. Harbison suggests the hashtag #ethicalowlphotography instead.

HARBISON: You will, for sure, get a lot of probably great horned and snowy owl photos.

MANDELBAUM: But I would say the best part is that a lot of the conversation does kind of turn into an educational moment for people about owls, why they're so amazing, and kind of how we could be the best stewards for our local owls.

FLORIDO: So come Sunday, if you can't bring yourself to root for the Bengals or the Rams, why not hoot for the owls? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Megan Lim
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.