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What makes owls so quiet & so deadly for prey? – Deep Look

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.

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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.

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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.

Next: Watch more Deep Look and/or measure and compare the flight sounds of a pigeon, a peregrine falcon, and a barn owl. It’s impressive.

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