Owls are the ultimate stealthy nighttime hunters. They’re efficient, but they’re also quiet. It’s this skill that could unlock the creation of even quieter cities of the future that’s getting scientists excited. But don’t get too excited — that’s way too noisy!

Here are 5 things to know:

  1. Most owls have an incredible ability to fly almost silently, a significant advantage when they’re hunting at night. So how do they do it? Well, it’s all in the wing! It’s believed to result from the serrated, comb-like feathers on the leading edge, the front part of their wings, that disrupt incoming turbulent and noisy air into smaller, quieter streams, especially when the owl is diving at a steep angle, coming in for the kill.
  2. These smaller air streams then roll over the wing and are disrupted again by the flexible fringe of the trailing edge — the back end of the wing, reducing air noise even further, with the owl’s downy feathers on its legs absorbing any other remaining noise.
  3. This “owl-tech” means that giant turbine engines in jet planes where the air passes over the back of the wing, the trailing edge, and makes loud acoustic noise, could become a thing of the past.
  4. Scientists are already having some success mimicking the owl by creating comb-like parts and flexible fringes on the turbine itself. Sound promising!
  5. By being able to dramatically reduce the noise created by machines and AC units, it could mean that our cities of the future will be far quieter and more relaxing spaces than ever before. And, ironically, studies have shown that in order for urban species of owl to thrive, there has to be less noise in cities, anyway.

So it’s easy to see that this simple idea needn’t be on a wing and prayer. It’s one that should be bound to take off!