Wings Over the Ridge (FLWCRNC)
Participants will discuss the characteristics of raptors, and more specifically, owls. They’ll learn about the their biology, including where they live, what they eat, how they use their senses and other physical attributes to hunt their prey. Participants will engage with the live education animals.
K - 12 (Program can be modified to suit the audience)
Indoor or outdoor classroom
Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center, Jonesboro
Education Program Coordinator, 870-933-6787
Suggested Number of Participants:
25 - 120
Must have a minimum of 25 students
- Identify physical characteristics of raptors.
- Identify different raptor species in Arkansas.
- Discuss how those animals live, their basic biology and place in the food chain.
*See glossary for definations
Education animals (eastern screech owls)
Raptors are birds of prey. Eagles, hawks, owls and falcons are included in this group. They are carnivores with sharp, powerful talons for capturing prey. They also have sharp, powerful bills used to tear apart and eat their prey. There are many different raptor species in Arkansas, all federally protected. Our program centers on members of the order Stigiformes, or the owls. Owls have special adaptations that help them hunt at night. There are 18 owl species in North America, and nine of them can be seen in Arkansas, though the snowy owl is a rare find.
- Prior to class, place one or both of the education owls into a smaller bird cage and place it inconspicuously in the room.
- Ask participants what they know about raptors (and birds in general). Identify characteristics of raptors and compare them to other birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Highlight all characteristics listed and some they missed.
- Next, turn their attention toward owls. Mention some characteristics that differentiate owls from other raptors. They are nocturnal, their eyes are fixed in their sockets (which makes them have to turn their entire head to see from side to side, though only up to 270°), and they have fringed feathers at the front of their wings for silent flight. Don’t forget the owl pellets.
- Next, tell participants that you have a special owl for them to meet, but that they must remain calm so as not to frighten it. Get the owl(s) out of the bird cage. Hold the jesses tightly! Discuss the eastern screech owl’s biology, similar species and how the coloration is camouflage. Talk about its size as compared to other raptors, its distribution, its senses for hunting (notice the ears) and the two color morphs of this species.
- Answer any questions.
- Bring some owl pellets to talk about their diets and animal signs.
- This program is suitable for all grades. Use age-appropriate vocabulary.
- What is the smallest owl in Arkansas?
- What is the composition of an owl pellet?
- How far can an owl turn his head?
- Where do eastern screech owls roost? Where do they nest?
- Name some physical characteristics unique to owls.
Wilson, Steven N. (1998). Arkansas Wildlife: A History. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press.
Asymmetry – not identical on both sides of a central line
Camouflage – colors, tones, patterns, shapes or behavior an organism uses to blend with its surroundings; also concealment that alters or obscures the appearance; also protective coloration, a common animal defense
Carnivore – any animal that consumes other animals that are living (predation) or dead (scavenging)
Facial Disc – concave collection of feathers on the face of some birds (especially owls) to collect sound waves and direct them to the ears
Morph – an individual of one particular form, such as the red morph and gray morph of the Eastern Screech Owl, in a species that has two or more forms
Nocturnal – active at night (as opposed to diurnal)
Owl pellet – a mass of undigested food an owl regurgitates consisting of bones, fur, etc.
Plumage – the layer of feathers that cover a bird and the pattern, color and arrangement of those feathers
Predator – an animal that hunts and kills other animals, usually for food
Prey – an animal that is killed and eaten by another animal
Raptor – bird of prey; also a type of bird often characterized by a hooked beak, sharp talons and keen eyesight
Talon – claw of a bird of prey