Owls are known to be able to fly extremely silently. They can fly inches from their preys without their knowing of the owl’s presence. What gives them this tremendously useful ability? A regular bird would create a gushing noise on flying, which would, obviously, alert prey’s of their presence. This is caused by the turbulence caused in the air by the flapping of wings. So how do owls do it?
An Owl’s wings’ edges have feathers covered in small structures poking out of the wings. These leading edge feathers are in the form of a comb. This causes a change in the airflow pattern, which not only gives stability but also causes reduced noise, especially during steep descents(like when they attack their prey). These projections causes the air to be divided into small airflows. The smaller airflows then roll out of the owl’s wings towards flexible fringes. These fringes further breaks down the airflow. All this causes a large reduction in aerodynamic noise production.
Even after all this, their might be a little bit of noise left. The owl’s have special feathers on their legs and wings that absorb this extra noise, leading to an almost noise-less flight. Thus owl’s get an enormous advantage as predators over other birds.
Their are three major adaptions in owls that help them to fly silently:
- Leading edge feathers-These break down the air into smaller airflows. Most efficient at noise-reduction when owl is gliding down steeply.
- Flexible Fringes- Air rolls out of the wings onto these flexible fringes. The fringes break down the airflow yet more.
- Soft Feather- Owls have soft, velvety feathers on their legs and wings which absorb any remaining noise.