What's up smart people?
It's time for the big game.
You know the one.
The game with the guys on the field, the pads, the ball.
VOICEOVER: PBS Sports presents the Superb Owl.
There's been one team in the bird league this year that's been dominating the rest.
We're talking skill, agility, speed, the ability to fly, and enormous talons at every position, ready to get owl up in your grill.
Let's meet the team.
On the ground or in the air these guys are deadly.
OK, maybe not with an actual football, maybe more like a mouse.
Owls need sensory super powers, because they've got to be efficient hunting machines.
A barn owl could easily have seven owl babies, each needing to eat five mice a day.
They've got the big eaters in there.
And since they only hunt at night our stat computers tell us that's six hours to gain 35 mice.
To make the most of every play you've got to be able to see the field.
Luckily relative to body size owls have gigantic eyes, maximum visual sensitivity in low light.
Owl peepers are so big regular spear shaped eyeballs like ours wouldn't leave any room for bird brains.
Their solution, tubular eyes.
Larger eye opening and it keeps your skull small.
That's a win-win baby.
But the drawback of tubular eyes means you can't move them in your sockets.
Luckily owls can go full exorcist.
They can rotate their heads around up to 270 degrees.
Now great vision is one skill, but these guys are the total package.
When it's too dark to see they pull a special page from their playbook, their owl ears.
Except those aren't actually ears.
Their whole, their face is an ear.
Owl faces may look flat, but that's a feathery fake-out.
This is a ruff, facial ruff.
Let's take apart this key to the game.
The ruff has two different types of feathers.
You've got your guys in the middle here to protect the face and eyes.
And these guys out here on the edge?
They can move either way.
They reflect sounds towards a couple asymmetrically placed receivers.
These guys hit the perfect angle to create super hearing.
Talk about a hoot, their face is basically a sound collecting radar dish.
They're hearing is so good they can even hunt mice underneath the snow.
Focus on the sound, swoop in, it's game over.
Now rounding out the total skill package owls evolved silent flight.
Just look at that wing-span.
When you've got big flapper's compared to your body size you can fly slowly and create less noise.
The front edge of that wing is serrated to dampen the sound.
It's like velvet, baby.
While the front edge is laying out lead blocking on the passing air, the trailing edge has a fringed texture that means less drag all speed.
You hear that?
You don't have to be Owl-bert Einstein to see these guys are basically perfect stealth flying machines.
We've got engineers studying them to figure out how to make quieter planes and drones, which is terrifying.
When they hit paydirt they swallow their food pretty much whole.
Then what goes down and comes back up a few hours later, basically a well-preserved pack of undigested bones and fur.
Now that's disgusting, but useful.
It can give you a play-by-play of what species the owl ate.
Now when scientists find old preserved owl pellets they can study how small mammal communities changed over thousands of years.
It's a whole history recorded in owl food.
Owls may not have the passing ability of a guy like Tom Brady.
But when you can see and here the field like that, superb owls are champs.
Stay curious, and don't miss our halftime show, dead mouse.