Quick, name a good bird-themed superhero. Hell, we'll even take a villain.
They all suck. Whether your choice was Robin, the Penguin or one of the lesser known C-list characters, chances are their powers are either flight or looking and sounding really stupid.
However, this is just lack of imagination from their writers' part. After all, when you look at the vast array of avian abilities in nature, it's easy to spot some serious superhero talent. For instance ...
#5. The Owl Is Daredevil and Wolverine Combined
Quick: What's special about owls? They can turn their heads all the way around? They can swallow mice whole?
This is a great example right here, because apparently owls can't do shit, if comic books are our guide. While there are several owl-themed superheroes and villains in existence, they tend to be thinly veiled Batman knockoffs with no powers to speak of. Even the superpowered ones usually possess some rather sad and useless power, such as Owlman's ability to "cause confusion."
We get the feeling Owlman was kind of confused himself.
Well, all we can say to that is comic book writers need to open a damned encyclopedia every now and then. We mean, look at the creature we're dealing with here. Besides having the best night vision of all birds, owls also have a satellite dish built into their face. The circular pattern of feathers on there? Yeah, that acts as a dish, focusing the sound and giving them what may be the best directional hearing in the world. And even weirder, those feather patterns can also, no kidding, be individually adjusted to increase reception.
"Jimmy, I know you hear me! You get back in the yard this instant!"
How well does this work? Let's put it this way: An owl can hear a mouse stepping on a twig from 75 feet away. Owls also have an incredible sense of sound elevation, meaning they can detect the height from which sound is emanating, because one ear hole is placed higher than the other. All of this is to pinpoint the exact location of the owl's prey, which in fact works so well that the bird can make in-flight course corrections to strike at its victim.
And keep in mind, we're talking about a nocturnal hunter -- they're using this finely tuned sense of hearing to take down prey that the owl can't even see. So, basically we're looking at a flying Daredevil but with a slew of built-in razor blades on its hands a la Wolverine.
To demonstrate how these powers would be handy fighting crime, we'd like to show you the following video. imagine that the lemming is crime:
To make matters even worse for the criminal element, owls also happen to have special serrated feathers that allow them to fly silently like a stealth fighter. Furthermore, they have the lowest wing-loading ratio of any bird, meaning they can fly extremely slow if they need to, or carry large loads. The owl superhero wouldn't need to zoom in like Superman or swing around like Spider-Man -- he'd just slowly, silently glide over the area, hearing everything and casting an ominous shadow in the night sky. Hell, he'd be his own Bat Signal, if the Bat Signal could swoop in at evildoers and carry them away.
Oh, and if you're now inspired to become an owl-themed superhero based on all this, there is one genus of owl that has already come up with a kick-ass name for you: Strix.
Via Wikimedia Commons
And it can see into your soul.
#4. The Harpy Eagle Can and Will Crush You
The harpy eagle is pretty much as powerful as you can get while still being able to fly. It has a crushing grip of 530 pounds per square inch. If that's a meaningless number to you, let's put it like this: The average man has a grip of about 60 pounds. The typical dog bite clocks a mere 320. Freaking wolves can only chew you at a 400 pounds per square inch. This bird beats them all.
And he knows it.
But surely, even a bird with a grip that can shame the jaws of a feral canine is still just a bird? What could it do to a full-grown man? Tear off a finger with its little claws?
Quite a bit more than that, actually, considering that its talons are the same size as those of a fucking grizzly bear.
"Just letting you know, buddy, it would be in your best interest to never, ever let go."
The harpy eagle applies its horror grip via 5-inch talons that it can sink into pretty much anything it wants. And let's not forget that it also has a razor-sharp beak that would make a Japanese swordsman hang his tools in shame and retire to a quiet life running a small sake bar.
To drive the point home, the harpy eagle likes to show off its power by crushing the skulls of monkeys, then eating them. That is, if they just won't flat out carry the poor prey away, like they do to this sloth:
Wait, did we say superhero? Because we're just going to go out on a limb and assume that a superpowered entity based on it wouldn't necessarily be fighting the good fight.
#3. The Lyrebird Is the World's Greatest Mimic
The lyrebird is the greatest audio mimic in the world. Besides copying the songs of other birds, it can copy the sounds of car alarms, construction equipment, gunshots, dogs barking, musical instruments and even people. And we're not talking about that "Polly wanna cracker" parrot bullshit. This thing can reproduce the exact sound of your voice, like a living tape recorder. It can imitate you better than another human can imitate you.
It already has a superhero costume.
That's because the lyrebird has the most advanced set of vocal cords in the world, made all the more impressive by the fact that it has no lips to help it shape the sound, what with being a bird and everything. The lyrebird does it all with its throat.
Also, their memory for recording and storing these sounds is impeccable. For example, in 1969 a lyrebird song was recorded and sent to a scholar named Norman Robinson. After filtering it, he figured out to his surprise that this bird was singing two popular tunes from the 1930s ... at the same time. Watch:
Holy shit. That there was a lyrebird imitating every other bird in the forest ... and then, finally, mimicking a group of men cutting down said forest. Yes, the chainsaw engine at 2:30 was actually the lyrebird.
How is there not already a comic book character based on this thing? Its practical applications in general superheroics and/or villainous antics are still enormous. How much business do we do over the phone? How good would a detective be if he could imitate the voice of a criminal and call up his accomplice to discuss recent nefarious activities? Trouble in the way? Give this guy a megaphone and he's a police siren, a pack of angry dogs, gun shots, a velociraptor, anything.
If one of them imitated Michael Winslow, it would open a portal to another universe.
Also, c'mon, the name is right there, people! He's a hero? The Lyre! A villain? The Liar.