My sister was out for an evening jog the other night, when a large bird swooped down on her head. She said it was like getting hit with a brick. She called me soon after it happened. I could hear a little shake in her voice. We wondered about what kind of bird it was. Our first guess was an owl -mostly because the attack happened in the evening.
She said she didn’t see anything as she was understandably ducking and trying to avoid the large wild animal that was intent on puncturing her scalp with its talons. What really struck her in the moment is that it made no sound. None.
Well, I have noticed how “quiet” owls are, and it reinforced our first guess as to what bird it was, but I didn’t really KNOW that owls aren’t just quiet in fight. They are virtually silent. According to audobon.org “Comb-like serrations on the leading edge of wing feathers break up the turbulent air that typically creates a swooshing sound. Those smaller streams of air are further dampened by a velvety texture unique to owl feathers and by a soft fringe on a wing’s trailing edge. These structures together streamline the air flow and absorb the sound produced.”
A little googling around and I found this video from the BBC.
Another question we had was why the owl was so territorial at this time of year. If it was early spring, and what I think of as nesting season, I wouldn’t have been surprised, but are owls always so bold? I know they aren’t afraid of humans. We once had a large owl living in the top of the barn. It looked down on us with disdain, but never fear.
A little more googling and I read that Great Horned Owls actually start setting up their nesting territories in October! Well, that cinched it: My sister was attacked by a Great Horned Owl. The wingspan of a Great Horned Owl can be well over 4 feet and the strength of their talons has been equated to the bite of a German Shepherd.
No wonder it felt like getting hit with a brick.