Thunder Valley Scientists Investigate Owl Adaptations

January 4, 2018

Even though winter break just ended, the students at Thunder Valley were eager for a great day of scientific investigation. The educators from SOLE came to visit the four classes with bins full of owl biofacts and pellets to dissect.

 

Students had a chance to examine talons, wings, and skulls observing what makes owls uniquely adapted to survive. Hypotheses were presented and discussed among the young scientists, and new wonders sprang up as the investigations continued. Why are the feathers colored in this pattern? What kind of owl could this be from? Why are the eye sockets in the skull so big? Why are the talons so curved? Why do owls turn their heads so far?

 

Comparing the sound that owl feathers make versus non-owl feathers was a highlight for many students especially when they had a chance to see and hear the differences for themselves. Have you ever looked closely at an owl feather? Their feathers are specialized to help cut the wind as they fly through the air, keeping their flight silent. Why would owls need such a special adaptation?

Owls are amazing for all of these special characteristics, but the big investigation was just beginning! Keeping their scientist minds cranking, students were asked to examine an owl pellet. What is an owl pellet and what does it contain? Not many knew before the dissection began. Clues were passed out first, such as the tools needed for the work as well as some charts to help identify what might be contained within.

 

Once the pellets were handed out, students unwrapped the small parcels and discovered…. Vomit! An owl eats its prey whole. What it cannot digest, it must get rid of in another way. The owl’s gizzard collects everything indigestible and compacts it into a pellet that can be regurgitated. These compacted masses are called pellets, and they can tell us a lot about what and how much an owl is eating.

 

Many students were excited to dig into the investigation and happily used the provided tools or their own hands to carefully take the pellet apart to discovery what it held. Others took a little more persuasion but became interested once they found their first bone. By the end of each class, students were animatedly talking to each other about their discoveries and helping each other identify the bones they recovered. Almost every student chose to take their findings home to show off to friends and parents.