I find that many epic questions tend to bubble up from my subconscious during my daily beach walks here in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Perhaps it’s the inspirational setting; the vast expanse of sand and ocean and sky that gives one the sense of being a very small and humble part of a vast, inter-connected whole.
In this case, however, my question was raised by walking through large numbers of seagulls roosting along the shoreline. Do they scurry out the way or take to the air because they see me? Or are they alerted to my presence because they feel the vibrations of my approach through the ground?
Or can they hear my approach? Do birds have ears?
I was stumped by the question. And just as amazed that I’d never considered it before. As one who loves nature, I should know whether or not birds possess the sense of hearing, shouldn’t I?
I thought about every species of bird I’ve observed, from the common-place robin and swallow, to the more exotic pelican, eagle and cormorant. None, to my recollection, have anything resembling ears.
The good news for you, the reader, is that I did the research so you don’t have to.
Birds, do in fact hear, and do so through internal ears, covered by feathers and therefore invisible to the naked eye. In fact, their hearing mechanism is very similar to our own internal ear.
It seems obvious in retrospect, but birds don’t have the external ear part that we do because it would invariably hinder their aerodynamic form and impede the efficiency of flight.