Owls are highly specialized master predators, able to see long distances in the dark, swivel their heads 270 degrees to track their prey, and, perhaps most impressive, fly in complete silence. How do they do it?
The video above, a clip from the BBC Earth Natural World episode "Super Powered Owls," answers that question by way of an experiment. Using highly sensitive microphones, the filmmakers record the sounds of a pigeon, a peregrine falcon and a barn owl in flight, then compare the results with slow-motion video footage.
It's worth watching the entire clip just for the beautiful filmography, but essentially, what sets the owl apart is its basic construction: a small, lightweight body powered by two huge wings that allow the owl to soar great distances with minimal effort. Fewer wingbeats means less air movement, which means less sound.