Dr Jim Usherwood features on the BBC Two wildlife series Natural World, exploring "Super Powered Owls".
Dr Usherwood, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the RVC, investigates the mechanics of terrestrial and aerial locomotion. He appears alongside bird specialists Lloyd and Rose Buck in this episode of the popular TV series, exploring the science behind the skills that make owls unique.
By recreating a hunting environment in the lab, Dr Usherwood was able to analyse the key role of kinetics when a barn owl hunts. The owl demonstrates a pouncing technique - or more specifically a "leap" and "strike" method - to secure its prey from above. Using force plates he was able to show that a barn owl can descend upon its prey and hit the ground at around 12 times its own body weight. This impact would be vital for punching through a layer of leaves or snow to grab prey it can only hear.
This work is based in the paper "Leap and strike kinetics of an acoustically 'hunting' barn owl" published by Dr Usherwood, Emily Sparkes and Professor Renate Weller in The Journal of Experimental Biology.
For more details on this programme you can visit the BBC Natural World website and watch this episode for a limited time on the BBC iPlayer: