Institute of Biology II
Department for Zoology and Animal Physiology
 >> Audition (Group Wagner)  >>  Psychoacoustics


We have worked for a long time on the question which signal parameter the barn owls use to localize sounds. We found that the interaural time difference (ITD) is the main cue for localization in the horizontal plane or azimuth while the interaural level difference (ILD) is important for elevational sound localization (Fig. ITD/ILD: DFG). Further cues, like the monaural or binaural spectrum most likely also play a role, but their contribution has not been quantified so far. To make progress in this field, we have established virtual auditory worlds for owls (Figure Iris). By virtualle removing the ruff, we found that the ruff reduces ambiguities (Figure Hausmann. Recently we have started investigation on the influence of adaptation on sound localization and the influence of the interaural canal.

Most recent funding

DFG project WA 20-2





Hausmann L, Singheiser M, Wagner H (2010) Why are barn owls a model system for sound localization? J Exp Biol 213: 2355-2356.

Wagner H, Kautz D, Poganiatz I (1997) Principles of acoustic motion detection in animals and man. Trends. Neurosci. 20: 583-588.

Wagner H (1995) Sound-localization experiments in owls. In Klump GM, Dooling RJ, Fay RR and Stebbins WC (eds.) Methods in comparative Psychoacoustics. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, pp 183-194.


Original publications

Hausmann L, von Campenhausen M, Wagner H. (2010) Properties of low-frequency head-related transfer functions in the barn owl (Tyto alba). J Comp Physiol A196: 601-612.

Singheiser M, Plachta DTT, Brill S, Bremen P, van der Willigen R, Wagner H (2010) Target-approaching behavior of barn owls (Tyto alba): influence of sound frequency. J comp Physiol A 196: 227-240.

Hausmann L, von Campenhausen M, Endler F, Singheiser M, Wagner H (2009) Improvements of sound-localization capabilities by the facial ruff of the barn owl (Tyto alba) as demonstrated by virtual ruff removal. Plos One 4: e7721.

Hausmann L, Plachta DTT, Singheiser M, Brill S, Wagner H (2008) In-flight corrections in free-flying Barn owls (Tyto alba) during sound localization tasks. J Exp Biol 211: 2976-2988.

von Campenhausen M, Wagner H (2006) Influence of the facial ruff on the sound-receiving characteristics of the barn owl's ears. J. comp. Physiol. A192: 1073-1082.

Poganiatz I and Wagner H (2001) Sound-localization experiments with barn owls in virtual space: influence of broadband interaural level difference on head-turning behavior. J comp. Physiol. A187: 225-233

Poganiatz I, Nelken I, Wagner H (2001) Sound-localization experiments with barn owls in virtual space: influence of interaural time difference on head-turning behavior.J Ass Res Otolarnyg 2: 1-21 (2001).

Johnen A, Wagner H and Gaese BH (2001) Spatial selective attention modulates localization of sounds in barn owls. J Neurophysiol 85:1009-1012.

Wagner H (1993) Lesion-induced sound-localization deficits in the barn owl. J Neurosci 13: 371-386.

Wagner H (1991) A temporal window for lateralization of interaural difference in the barn owl. J Comp Physiol A169: 281-289.