The owl specimens are very fragile! Please handle them gently and treat them with respect. Please warn your students before presenting Oscar the barn owl to them, so they are not startled by his less-than-whole appearance.
|How are owls different than other birds?||Many owls are awake at night (nocturnal), and regurgitate undigestible prey parts.||Brainstorm other differences between owls and other birds.|
|Birds of prey are birds that hunt with their feet. How can you tell that owls are birds of prey? Do owls compete with other birds of prey for food?||They have sharp talons. Birds that hunt from the air also need binocular vision. Owls that hunt at night do not compete with other birds that hunt during the day.||Compare binocular vision and monocular vision using the giant eyeballs.|
|How are owl eyes different than other bird eyes?||Owl eyes are large so they can take advantage of low light levels at night. Owl eyes are up to 5% of the total body weight of the owl.||If an owl were the size of a human, its eyes would be the size of softballs. Hold the softballs up to your face to see what that would look like.|
|Why do owls always stare straight ahead?||Owls cannot move their eyes in their sockets. To compensate for this limitation, they can turn their heads 270° (3/4 of the way around) in each direction.||Use the cups to experience not being able to move you eyes. Put one cup over each eye and look through the hole in the end of the cup and something directly in front of you. Now try looking at something else. Turning your eyeballs doesn’t work; you must turn your head instead.|
|Do owls need to hear well to hunt at night? Why? How could the round face of the owl help it hear better?||The face is shaped like a dish that funnels sound to the ears. The owl’s right ear opening is higher on its head, and the left ear opening is lower. This allows the owl to tell where a sound is coming from and how loud it is because it reaches the ears at different times (this is like binocular vision for the owl’s ears).||The location of the sound will activate special cells in the owl’s brain. Each cell represents a point in space around the owl. The owl can make a “neural map,” or a sculpture of the sound in its brain. The owl can use this “map” to know the exact location of its prey. Owls have been known to catch prey in pitch black rooms using only the sound of their prey.|
|Why do owls fly silently?||Fewer organisms are awake at night so there is less sound everywhere. Silence is a type of camouflage.||Owl feathers have a fringe on them that helps muffle the sound. Use the rulers to demonstrate how fringe muffles sound. Swing the fringeless ruler around fast enough to get a really good sound out of it. Now try to get a sound with the fringed ruler.|
|How do human activities affect owls?||Burrowing Owls are ground dwellers. Native grasslands have been converted to croplands, and with crops comes the use of pesticides. The Spotted Owl nests and finds its prey in old-growth forests, which contain profitable timber.||What can humans do to lessen their impact on the habitats of owls?|
This station now has benches! Encourage your students to use them.
The owl wings smell bad. Open the plastic bag if you're really daring, but the fringe can be seen through the plastic just fine.
Make sure your students are sitting in a safe place when someone is spinning the owl wings so nobody gets hurt. If you have trouble getting the regular bird wing to make noise, keep trying. Vary your speed or the length of the string.
Take advantage of the posters in the Owls station. Have your students find interesting owl facts to share with the rest of the group.