Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Silent Flight

Finding a beautiful animal killed by a car is never a happy experience but one can take advantage of the situation to observe detail not possible when the animal is still alive. This macro photograph shows the comb-like edge of a Barn Owl's outer primary feather, forming the leading edge of the wing, the specialised adaptation which makes them have silent flight. How? With each flap, this 'softer' edge gently brushes through the air, making no noise, unlike the flat-edge of other diurnal birds' wings (magpies, for example).

Barn Owls also have a large facial disc composed of bristled feathers, like a radar dish which channels the tiniest sound right to the ears. Ear openings in the skull are offset, with one being higher on the head than the other, allowing the owl to calculate the direction and distance of a small rustle in the leaves. Together with a reversible outer toe for getting that grip just right, and a neck which can turn 270˚ to 'pivot the radar dish' in most directions, this specialist equipment makes them perfect nocturnal hunters capable of catching prey in total blackness, without even a glimmer of light needed.

Here is a wider shot of the upper surface of the owl's wing, showing the stunningly beautiful feather patterns. Never pass up the opportunity to learn something new, even from a dead bird!

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