How this owl detects prey hiding under mounds of snow
The great gray owl likely has a clever strategy for zeroing in on small rodents during the winter, a new study says.
Great gray owls can find and capture voles hidden beneath almost two feet of snow, punching through hardened crusts with their legs to snag a meal. Now researchers have uncovered hints of how these birds of prey use sound to accomplish such an impressive feat.
The new study, published November 22 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggests the owls hover over the snow to locate muffled sounds, and that their broad faces help with this task.
“Snow is really famous for absorbing sound,” says study leader Christopher Clark, an ornithologist at the University of California, Riverside, who ran a series of experiments measuring sound in Manitoba, Canada, earlier this year.