I always thought the word for owl was “hibou” in French, until the day I found my white owl mug at a department store in Lausanne. I have always had a design affinity for owls. When I went to pay for the mug I saw the label on the mug said “chouette”. I always thought that the word “chouette” had only one meaning in French, and that was “cool” -- as in the expression “C’est chouette!” (That’s cool).
I did further research and learned that a “chouette” is an owl without the tufts of feather that look like ears and a “hibou” are the ones which look like they have ears, or rather tufts of feather that look like ears. As far as I know, there is no differentiation between the two in the English language.
We wanted the owl to actually look “cool” instead of “cute”, so we put a vest and monocle on him. Oh, and we made sure he didn’t have tufts of feather that resembled ears. Real chouette!