Turbulent wake-flow characteristics in the near wake of freely flying raptors: A comparative analysis between an owl and a hawk

Krishnamoorthy Krishnan, Hadar Ben-Gida, Gareth Morgan, Gregory A. Kopp, Christopher G. Guglielmo, Roi Gurka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Owl flight has been studied over multiple decades associated with bio-inspiration for silent flight. However, their aerodynamics has been less researched. The aerodynamic noise generated during flight depends on the turbulent state of the flow. In order to document the turbulent characteristics of the owl during flapping flight, we measured the wake flow behind a freely flying great horned owl (Bubo virginianus). For comparison purposes, we chose to fly a similar-sized raptor a Harris's hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus): one is nocturnal and the other is a diurnal bird of prey. Here, we focus on the wake turbulent aspects and their impact on the birds' flight performances. The birds were trained to fly inside a large-scale wind tunnel in a perch-to-perch flight mode. The near wake of the freely flying birds was characterized using a long duration time-resolved particle image velocimetry system. The velocity fields in the near wake were acquired simultaneously with the birds' motion during flight which was sampled using multiple high-speed cameras. The turbulent momentum fluxes, turbulent kinetic energy production, and dissipation profiles are examined in the wake and compared. The near wake of the owl exhibited significantly higher turbulent activity than the hawk in all cases, though both birds are similar in size and followed similar flight behavior. It is suggested that owls modulate the turbulence activity of the near wake in the vicinity of the wing, resulting in rapid decay before radiating into the far-field; thus, suppressing the aerodynamic noise at the far wake.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1109-1122
Number of pages14
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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