Museum Photos, Part IV — Stealth Hunter
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Barn Owls are among those species that live all around us and that we never see. These owls are strictly nocturnal. Generally, if one sees a Barn Owl at all, it is tucked away somewhere secluded and fast asleep. I’ve seen one in the wild, even photographed it, but intervening vegetation made the images less than impressive.
So, earlier this week I took advantage of the fact that the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum flies one of these beautiful birds in its afternoon Raptor Free Flight demonstration and had the opportunity to photograph it in brilliant sunshine.
I’m sure you’ll agree, it is extraordinarily beautiful. Its back and outer wings, especially, are stunning, patterned in shades of gray and gold.
Barn Owls hunt in near-total darkness, relying on their hearing to detect the presence of their prey, almost exclusively mice. They are reputed to have the most acute hearing of any bird species. Their heart shaped faces are superior sound gatherers. One ear is placed higher than the other and that enables these birds to triangulate the sounds that they hear, giving them the ability to hunt mice in darkness by sound alone.
They fly almost silently. Their bodies are covered with soft, downy feathers that muffle sound. Even more extraordinary, the feathers on their wings are equipped with tiny fringes that also serve to muffle sound. A Barn Owl is an a highly efficient predator. Estimates are that one will consume on average, more than 3 mice per night and over 1000 mice in a year. Now, that’s some gorgeous mousetrap!
Photo taken with a Canon 5Diii, 70-200 f4 L IS zoom, ISO 250, “M” setting, f7.1 @ 1/1600.