Why Do Owls Fly Silently? (Explained for Beginners)

Silent flying contributes to an owl’s mystery while also serving a functional purpose. It aids this nocturnal predator in gaining an advantage over its prey.

Owls’ wings are designed in such a way that they can fly practically silently. Their silent flight is aided by several sections of their wings and the properties of their feathers.

Owls have huge surfaces on their wings, which allow them to float in the air without flapping excessively. There is less noise when there is less flapping.

Why do owls fly silently?

Why Do Owls Fly Silently

The unusual design of the leading edges of owls’ primary feathers is the main reason they can fly silently.

Turbulence, which is formed as air rushes over the surface of a bird’s wings, generates noise when it flies.

Soft fringes on owls’ secondary feathers help to lessen turbulence behind their wings.

The turbulence formed is split down into smaller currents known as micro-turbulence, which occurs when air is divided by fine combs similar to feathers.

The remaining feathers on the owl’s wings have a specific role as well; those near the bottom of the wings are feathered to disrupt sound waves as they travel over them, while the remaining feathers (down feathers) absorb any remaining sounds.

It’s also been hypothesized that the pattern of these feathers produces a sound that’s a few sound frequencies higher than typical, so prey can’t hear it — interesting theory, right?

Related: Here is an article I wrote on owls and their long legs

How does an owl fly silently?

The unusual design of the leading edges of owls’ primary feathers is the main reason they can fly silently.

Turbulence, which occurs as air rushes across the surface of a bird’s wings, generates noise.

The wings of owls, on the other hand, are unusual in the sense that they decrease noise created by turbulence.

The feathers of an owl are serrated like a comb. Turbulence is broken down into tiny currents termed “micro-turbulences” in this design.

The edge of the feather then muffles the sound of air passing over the wings and alters the air flow angle.

These soft feathers allow air to travel through, which silences the environment.

Some believe that as the owl flies, these feathers may also convert sound energy from the owl’s wing to a higher frequency that prey cannot hear.

Soft fringes on owls’ secondary feathers help to lessen turbulence behind their wings.

The trailing feathers on the back end of the wing are ragged, and downy feathers cover the rest of the wing and legs.

As the owl flies, sound waves are broken by the trailing fringe and ragged feathers as air passes over the wings.

Any noise made while flying is absorbed by the down feathers.

Any noise made while flying is absorbed by the down feathers.

All sounds that an owl’s potential prey can hear are blocked by the down, which absorbs frequencies above 2,000 hertz.

Owl feathers have a comb-shaped leading edge and a fringed trailing edge, which funnel air smoothly over the wing and reduce the sound.

The large wings of an owl, in comparison to its body size, produce more lift and allow it to fly slowly—as slow as two miles per hour.

Also check out this article on how owls show affection

How quiet are owls’ wings?

They have huge wings in comparison to their body mass, allowing them to fly at very slow speeds—as slow as two miles per hour for a large species like the Barn Owl—by gliding silently with little flapping.

Furthermore, the structure of their feathers acts as a sound dampener.

Why do owls fly at night?

Most other birds are diurnal, while owls are nocturnal (night hunters) (day hunters).

Because there are more birds of prey around during the day, owls evolved to be nocturnal because there is less competition and risk at night.

Do owls have elliptical wings?

Yes, they do. The overall elliptical form of owl wings, which is especially apparent in barn owls [37,38], or the expression of slotted wings due to feather marginations [39,40] that may be found in many Strigidae species, is suited to decreasing this influence.

Can an owl fly in the rain?

The answer is to this question is Not really. Owls find it difficult to fly when the weather is excessively wet, thus they rarely fly in the rain.

They can fly in light rain, but severe rain causes an owl’s ability to fly to be momentarily lost.

When the weather is poor, owls have a hard time getting food since their soft feathers aren’t waterproof and they can’t hunt successfully in the rain.

Barn Owls are quite light for their size, and they struggle to fly in severe winds.

Do owls fly during the day

Short-eared owls hunt during the day, whereas barn and tawny owls are crepuscular and only fly during the day when accidently disturbed at most times of the year.

Conclusion

The wing of an owl is designed to allow for ideal silent flight, which is crucial to the owl’s hunting success.

Owls have big wings in relation to their entire size, with a surface area that allows them to glide through the air more like an aeroplane than a bird, reducing the amount of flapping required.

In addition, the owl’s feathers are engineered to suppress noise.

Written by Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books

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