Owls are commonly believed to have ears, but they actually lack external ears. In fact, owls do not have any ear openings on their skulls and they cannot hear anything because of the absence of eardrums.
The owl ear myth is a popular urban legend that claims owls have ears. Owls do not have any flat, external auditory appendages on their heads to hear through. These myths might be because of lack of knowledge about owls in general or the various myths existing about other parts too .
Owl Hearing through its Ears
The reason behind not believing this myth is because, the theory goes wrong after being given a close look. Owls have ear openings in their skulls which are extremely small and can hear only sound at high frequency level, similar to bats. They cannot differentiate between sounds based on its pitch.
Ears are formed by bones in the head of birds, these are made during fetal development and remain after hatching. The reason why most people cannot comprehend this concept is that there is no explanation about how they make tunnels inside these skulls to attach ear conchae to them. But, this myth is purely based on a lack of information.
Ears are utricles which are sensory organs evolved to filter incoming sound waves passing through the outer hair cells inside the cochlea into electrical signals that are then transmitted via nerves to inner ear lobe via auditory evagination and transmitted to brain. The nerve fibers travel through the brain stem before leaving the skull.
Owls have asymmetry in the size and shape of their ears. Owls use this asymmetry to help them locate prey, which can be anything from a mouse or bird to another owl. Owl eyes are located on either side of its head, with one eye facing forward while the other looks out sideways from underneath it. The asymmetry allows for better visual coverage by having two primary vision areas instead of only one. In many owls there is also an asymmetrical arrangement around the eyes.
The larger and more prominent right eye allows the bird to focus on smaller and furtive targets that may be difficult for its left eye to see, like prey hidden behind plants or in crevices. If owls can’t pick out a target with both their eyes they will attempt to use their right eye, which has a better acuity of 110 degrees to match what it would see if facing straight forward. Owls lack binocular vision, so they are unable to judge the distance between themselves and their targets. The owl uses multiple points of view by flying up in an erratic circle and then descending into a hunkered down head position to find its target.
Owl is designed quite differently than other birds . There are excessive bones on the top of owl head that give ear cavity more structure, which help it to cope with the adverse climatic condition. The owls have very little brain compared to animals like cats and humans; their auditory systems are purely based on conformational changes in the skull.
How good is owl hearing?
Owls are able to hear in stereo, meaning they can locate prey in both the left and right ear. They have extremely sensitive hearing enabling them to hear their prey even in complete darkness. Owls are masters of catching their prey despite the fact that they move around at high speed. They can identify moving slow objects, even in narrow crevices. It is unrealistic to believe an owl would not hear something with movement within its yard if it were a rat or mouse for instance without looking in. Even the bird is immune to its own stink. Owl’s special hearing organs are not like human ears; they do not require bones, cartilage or any outer covering whatsoever. The ear has no nerve pathways in comparison to their other animals near them which makes it particularly difficult for owls to hear outside of their yard. As the owl’s ear is feather sensitive, owls can capture prey with great accuracy in daylight and can hear for distances up to 30 miles away under ideal circumstances.
How are echolocation senses used?
Birds use a form of sound called ultrasonic hearing to hunt for prey and communicate with its other members. The waves produced by the owls’ cries are very high-frequency ones, enabling them to “see” any movement or possible biological signals from their food thanks to echolocation. The owls will then be able to catch it with even less chance of being seen
Do owls have better hearing than humans?
In general, owls have a better sense of hearing than humans. They can hear high-pitched noises, such as a mouse rustling in the grass, that humans cannot hear. Owls also hear and locate moving objects with their incredibly sensitive echolocation hearing. Owls can recognize and locate sounds in a way humans could never do. Owls trained to find rabbits tested their ability to distinguish between the different types of owls (Great Horned, Snowy, Long Eared). The tests found that owls’ hearing was much sharper than that of human.