Lesser sooty owls can change the shape of their ears

This member of the masked owl family live in the forests of north-east Australia, nesting 30 metres (100 feet) off the ground. When pairs begin courting, they emit shrieks like falling bombs, and their babies leave the nest as fully-grown adults after only three months in their parents care.

This bird is at the top of the food chain and eats rats, bandicoots and even possums during its nightly hunt. It has hearing four times better than any other animal tested and can hunt in pitch black conditions. The secret to its predatory success is in the amazing way it uses its ears.

Each of a lesser sooty owl’s ears are set in different places on the head, so incoming sounds reach each ear at slightly different times. This time lag between the two ears is enough for the clever owl to detect the source of the noise, so it can swoop to investigate. It can even change the shape of its ears with moveable flaps, so this owl can focus on particular sounds just like an eye pupil changes shape to focus on an image.

 

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Image from www.flickr.com/photos/richardfisher