Get a close up look at the sound-muffling feathers of an owl. Add powerful low-light vision and a nocturnal nature, providing her with the cover of darkness, and the owl becomes a stealthy ambush hunter. From KQED’s Deep Look:
When birds flap their wings it creates turbulences in the air as it rushes over their wings. In general, the larger a bird is and the faster it flies, the larger the turbulence created and that means more sound.
The feathers at the leading edge of an owl’s wings have an unusual serrated appearance, referred to as a comb or fringe. The tiny hooked projections stick out and break up the wind as it flows over the owl’s wings reducing the size and sound of the turbulences.
Owl feathers go one step further to control sound. When viewed up-close, owl feathers appear velvety. The furry texture absorbs and dampens sound like a sound blanket. It also allows the feathers to quietly slide past each other in flight, reducing rusting sounds.