Do Birds Have Ears?

Great Horned Owl

Yes, birds do have ears!

In fact most birds have an excellent sense of hearing and are able to hear a much wider range of sounds than humans, but you just can’t see their ears because they are covered with feathers. Some owls, such as the great horned owl look as though they have ears but these are actually just tufts of feathers and have nothing to do with hearing.

Birds’ ears are usually just behind and just below their eyes and each earhole can be as big as the eye. The feathers that cover the ear hole protect it from the noise of the wind as the bird flies.

Just like humans, birds have three parts to their ears; the outer ear which channels air onto the eardrum, the middle ear which sends the vibrations from the eardrum to the columella bone and the inner ear where these vibrations are carried by nerve receptors to the brain. Also, as in humans their ears help them to balance as well as hear.

Because birds don’t have external ears it was long thought that birds were unable determine where sound was coming from. But a study conducted by a team from a university in Germany found that birds are able to use the shape of their head to work in a similar way to external ears. You can read more about this research here.

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