New analysis reveals unbelievable searching secrets and techniques of the Nice Gray Owl

A brand new examine in Manitoba, Canada exhibits how the “Nice Grey Owl,” a standard web site, both hovering over the plains or perching and nesting within the forests of the jap  prairies, overcomes many obstacles to search out its prey.


The prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) – Photograph by Soebe, public area

The fowl is ready to “punch” by as a lot as 50cm (20”) of onerous, crusty snow – sufficient to carry an individual’s weight – to catch a vole hiding beneath. (The vole is a small rodent which regularly serves as a meal for the winged predator.)


However the snow presents the owl with different issues method earlier than the “second of seize,” too. Not solely does it disguise its prey from web site, forcing the fowl to depend on its listening to solely, it deadens, or attenuates any sound the vole is making, and even “bends” or refracts it, creating an “acoustic mirage,” or misunderstanding of its location. (See above.) The denser the snow, the extra pronounced is each the attenuation and refraction.


The owl soars in direction of its prey from its perch (above), then hovers as instantly over it as it could actually till it reaches a “listening place” of least refraction and attenuation – defeating that “acoustic mirage” within the course of. Then it plummets straight down on its goal, forming a “plunge-hole” within the snow.


The owl is fantastically tailored for this. Whereas it has no ear tufts, it has the biggest “facial disc” of any owl. That’s the place its ring of feathers filters and amplifies sound at its ears. (See above) This additionally permits it to choose up low-frequency sound, the type that transmits greatest by snow. And its wing feathers are shaped in such a method as to permit it to fly and hover extra quietly than simply about any fowl, wherever.

There are different options that make the “Nice Grey” distinctive, too.

It’s the largest owl in North America, with a wing span of properly over a metre. It may be discovered throughout the province, year-round. And, since Manitobans “adopted” it in 1987, it’s been our official, provincial fowl, too!

A 3-member crew, two from the US, together with James Duncan from “Uncover Owls” in Balmoral, Manitoba, used loudspeakers and particular cameras of their analysis.

The above pictures have been extracted, with thanks, from the crew’s official examine, simply printed within the proceedings of The Royal Society.

LEAD PHOTO: The Nice Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa). Photograph by Drsarahgrace, public area.

Larry Powell

Larry Powell

I’m a veteran eco-journalist dwelling in Shoal Lake, Manitoba, Canada. I’ve a life-long love of wildlife & pure locations. After working for radio and TV stations for about 30 years, I”ve turned to science writing as a freelancer specializing within the Earth Sciences. I’m a member of the Science Writers & Communicators of Canada and the American Affiliation for the Development of Science. I’m approved to obtain embargoed materials by the Science Media Centre of Canada, the Royal Society, NatureResearch and the World Well being Group. This enables me advance entry to essential, peer-reviewed analysis usually warning of habitat loss and the specter of extinction going through many wild species, normally due to human intrusion and intervention by the hand of man. They then usually develop into “hot-off-the-press” tales that are able to publish the second the embargoes are lifted. I publish (PinP) “The place Science Will get Respect.” I personal skilled photographic gear and am generally capable of improve my tales with my very own pictures.