Owls Fly Silently – How Do They Do That?

owls fly silently

Look at that cool barn owl.

Owls fly silently through the night air as they stalk their prey.  They are able to do this because of a couple different reasons explained here.

If you have ever been out at night and seen an owl fly by it is an experience you won’t soon forget.  Even seeing an owl perched on a branch or tree is pretty neat.  Owls are renowned for their ability to fly silently, sneaking out of the night on their prey.  Compared to other birds, such as a pigeon and peregrine falcon, they are slow and silent fliers.

Why Do Owls Fly Silently?

Owls are nocturnal birds that have a keen sense of hearing and sight to help them find prey at night.  However, those enhanced senses wouldn’t matter much if their prey could hear them coming.

Predators have different strategies for catching their prey.  Some, such as a peregrine falcon, use their speed and are simply too fast for prey to escape.  Others hunt in packs to corner their prey.  The owl is not fast and doesn’t hunt in a pack, but it developed the strategy of stealth.  It locates and then sneaks up on it’s prey and attacks before the prey can see or hear it.

owls fly silentlyHow Do Owls Fly Silently?

Owls have two main special adaptations that enable them to fly silently – their feathers and their wings.

Feathers

Owls feathers have two special features that help them to be quiet when they fly.  First, the leading edge or front edge of the feather looks like a comb.  Secondly,  the upper surface of the feather is fuzzy.  Together these funnel the air smoothly over the feathers and reduce the sound.

owls fly silently

Those are some big wings!

Wings

Owls generally have large wings for their body size.  This large wing to body ratio means that they don’t have to flap their wings as much or work as hard to fly.  Those huge wings give them good lift and enable them to fly very slowly.

 

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