Three researchers from the University of California, Discover Owls, and the University of Washington discovered how the Great Gray Owl finds and traps voles under two feet of snow.In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society BChristopher Clark, James Duncan, and Robert Dougherty describe spatially localizing sound sources under snow using acoustic cameras.
Previous research has shown that the screech owl can detect its presence. preyUnder a blanket of deep snow, such as rabbits and voles. Once spotted, the owl can swoop down and push its paws through the snow to catch its prey. In this new effort, researchers sought to understand how it does that.
This work involved venturing into the forests of Manitoba, Canada, which is covered in a thick blanket of snow each winter. They searched and found dive holes, evidence of owls diving into the snow to catch prey. In this case, mainly voles.Then I dug a similar hole next to the one I found and buried speaker under the snow.
They set up an acoustic camera that could record a wide range of sounds near the embedded speakers. The researchers then played the sound through a speaker and used the acoustic camera’s microphone to measure the sound heard through the snow. We slowly removed the layer of snow covering the speaker to see what sounds were able to penetrate through how much snow.
they found it white noise could penetrate thin snow layers, but only very low frequency noise could penetrate deep snow. Researchers note that the screech owl’s large, round face has sound-reflecting feathers that allow it to hear low-frequency sounds, such as the sound of voles digging through snow.
The researchers also noted that the birds typically circled over their intended target for a few seconds before diving. snow.
For more information:
Christopher J. Clark et al., Great Gray Owl hunting voles on the snow Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2022.1164
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