Owl Feathers – Nocturnal

Owl Feathers – Nocturnal

Music; Ambience: crickets, night sounds

JM: The plumage of every species of owl I have examined is remarkably soft and pliant. Perhaps it may be necessary that the wings of these birds should not make much resistance that they may steal through the air unheard upon a nimble and watchful quarry.” Words from 18th century naturalist Gilbert White. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

KM: “When an owl flies silently you don’t really hear them, you kind of perceive them. And sometimes you might perceive them flying because you catch ’em in your peripheral vision, or you maybe you feel the wind of their wings, or the rustle of the leaves as the owl flies through. But generally speaking you really don’t hear the owl itself.”

JM: Kim Middleton is a raptor biologist at the Peregrine Fund in Boise, Idaho. She tells us that silent flight is an adaptation that only nocturnal owls have made.

KM: “Imagine this: You are a nocturnal owl living in the forest, and it’s dark. Owls not only have exceptional night vision, but they have extremely acute hearing. And so as an owl is swooping down from this branch thirty feet up in a dark forest on a moonless night and it hears this mouse scurrying in the leaf litter below, it’s gonna have to continue to hone in on that sound while it flies in. So the silent flight not only is beneficial for stealth, but more importantly, it helps them to continue to use their sense of hearing while they are swooping down to capture their prey.”

JM: We’ll learn more about owls in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Owl Feathers - Nocturnal

The silent flight of the nocturnal owl aids its ability to catch prey at night.
Air Date:12/06/2013
Scientist:
Transcript:

Owl Feathers - Nocturnal

Music; Ambience: crickets, night sounds

JM: The plumage of every species of owl I have examined is remarkably soft and pliant. Perhaps it may be necessary that the wings of these birds should not make much resistance that they may steal through the air unheard upon a nimble and watchful quarry." Words from 18th century naturalist Gilbert White. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

KM: "When an owl flies silently you don't really hear them, you kind of perceive them. And sometimes you might perceive them flying because you catch 'em in your peripheral vision, or you maybe you feel the wind of their wings, or the rustle of the leaves as the owl flies through. But generally speaking you really don't hear the owl itself."

JM: Kim Middleton is a raptor biologist at the Peregrine Fund in Boise, Idaho. She tells us that silent flight is an adaptation that only nocturnal owls have made.

KM: "Imagine this: You are a nocturnal owl living in the forest, and it's dark. Owls not only have exceptional night vision, but they have extremely acute hearing. And so as an owl is swooping down from this branch thirty feet up in a dark forest on a moonless night and it hears this mouse scurrying in the leaf litter below, it's gonna have to continue to hone in on that sound while it flies in. So the silent flight not only is beneficial for stealth, but more importantly, it helps them to continue to use their sense of hearing while they are swooping down to capture their prey."

JM: We'll learn more about owls in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.