Bree Hanson, Clay County Conservation Board Naturalist, visited first graders at Johnson School, and owls were the topic of conversation. From what owls like to eat to how they capture their prey, the students had an experience filled with fun facts and hands-on learning.
Owl feathers are silent to help them capture their prey. Hanson waved a goose feather and an owl feather so the kids could compare the sound when flapped. The goose feather was very loud, and the owl feather didn’t make a sound. Hanson asked the students if anyone could hear the owl feather, to which the students replied with a resounding, “NO!” They eat mice, snakes and skunks. SKUNKS? Yes, skunks! Owls don’t have a sense of smell so they don’t care that the skunk is smelly!
Hanson shared many fun facts about owls with the students including: owls can’t move their eyes, they can move their necks 270 degrees, they grab their food with talons, there are seven types of owls in Iowa, they don’t have teeth, they don’t chew their food, they have really good hearing and they are nocturnal.
Excitement mounted as Hanson brought out the owl pellets. What is an owl pellet? One student raised his hand high, and when Hanson asked him that very question, he responded, “It is what owls puke out after they eat.” Hanson added that owls typically throw up the pellets one day after they eat. They ended their time together as scientists, investigating and dissecting sterilized owl pellets. Hanson gave bone charts to the students with pictures of items they might find. Some students jumped in with both hands, while others replied, “I’m not touching that!” First grader, Kyler, appeared hesitant, and when asked what he thought, he said, “I don’t know. It’s kind of mysterious!” By the end of the session, most of the kids built up the nerve to dig into the sterilized pellets, and found lots of fun treasures to match the items on the chart.
When finding a tree with an owl, Hanson encouraged the students to look around the base of the tree because there will be owl pellets. Students were elated to find out that they could keep their pellets and the bones found inside. Be on the lookout!