In this personal view article, the impact of an auditory specialist, the barn owl, to our understanding of sensory processing, especially auditory processing, is discussed from the perspective of a long-lasting career. In times when research on model systems such as the mouse or the fruit fly, both generalists for most of the behaviors examined, celebrates big successes, one may ask what the work on animals occupying specialized niches, “specialists”, can contribute to advance our knowledge about sensory systems. A specialist in this context is an animal that occupies a certain ecological niche and shows corresponding adaptations in anatomy and physiology. This article presents a personal view on the impact of the work on such a specialist. In my article I shall focus on audition in the barn owl, a specialist for hunting by listening. I started my scientific career in 1979, working with houseflies, and have worked with barn owls since my time as a postdoc at the California Institute of Technology (“Caltech”, Pasadena, CA, USA) in 1985. My interest in specialists derived from my work as an ornithologist when I realized that adaptations like the long and curved bill of the curlew help animals to occupy certain ecological niches. I wanted to understand in a formal sense, and in comparison to engineering, how evolution shapes such specializations.