The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Jareth the Goblin King, and Harry Potter’s
messenger owls have the power of creeping up on people. So do owls
in real life,
due to the design of their wings and feathers.
Owls are the bird of choice for the freaky supernatural beings.
They look cool.
They have the freaky-head-turn thing going for them. Mostly they
evoke the otherworldly because they can move silently through
the air; sneaking up
on their prey from out of the darkness . . . RIGHTNOW!
The owl’s wing is broad and rounded compared to that of other birds,
which makes for less flapping, and a quieter ride through the air.
That reduces some sound, but an owl is quiet even compared
to other birds
when they glide. It’s more than just a difference in wing
It’s the fact that owls are fully upholstered in order
to maintain silence.
The inside of
music studios, concert halls and movie theaters is covered with blocks
These muffle sound and prevent echoing. An owl’s hard surfaces,
specifically its legs and feet, are covered with soft feathered that
It’s the wing feathers that are really counterintuitive, though.
when designing something that makes little noise,
will make it as sleekand rounded as possible.That turns out
to be a mistake. A sleek, streamlined thing won’t have
any extra parts banging off
or creaking in the wind. As we’ve seen before, though, it will have turbulence.Turbulence is moving air and moving air makes noise.
On the front of the owl’s wing are feathers shaped like combs.
The teethof the combs lined the leading edge of the wing,
and like the bumps ona whale’s flukes, break up the stream
of air moving over the wing.
At the other side of the wing, the feathering is uneven, creating
a fringe-like back edge. The combination takes the air that would
all splash off the wing at the same time, and instead lets it out in
The result? Evolutionary advantage. Silent death. The ninjas of the
animal world. All kinds of ancient myths. Supernatural mystery.
And David Bowie. I don’t know how the last one fits in, either.
Via Owl Pages andNational Geographic.