Giving a Hoot: I’m owl ears

Recent studies have shown that there is little difference in the hearing capabilities between young and old barn owls.

An unavoidable consequence of getting older is the dulling of our senses, with hearing usually being the first to go.

If only humans had ears like barn owls (tyto alba), we could sit and have a conversation with our grandparents without involving the neighbours.

Recent studies have shown that there is little difference in the hearing capabilities between young and old barn owls, suggesting that these owls are immune to the dulling effects time has on hearing. The reason behind this is very simple, unlike most animals, owls never stop regenerating cells associated with detecting sounds within their inner ears.

Owls rely largely on their hearing to capture their prey and having a fresh set of ears helps them remain very successful in catching rodents. Another useful feature in locating their prey is the asymmetrical positioning of owl’s ears. One of the ears is larger than the other and is located slightly higher on the head, allowing for greater prey location.

Owls are often seen tilting their heads from side to side in a swaying fashion, and children are convinced that the owls are dancing. It is actually a very important hunting technique that owls use to pinpoint the exact position of their prey by listening to it from different angles and using alternating ears.

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  AUTHOR
Staff reporter

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