Winged Wonders A What Am I? Book Written by Kerry Smith
Winged Wonders: A What Am I? Book Written by Kerry Smith Published by Kerry Smith for RE 5111 Issues, Trends, and Practices in Reading, 2011. To owl lovers everywhere. -KCS
What Am I? I stand close to a “ruler” tall, yet my wingspan nearly reaches a “yard stick.” My upper body is golden tan like the fields in which I make my home. My underbody is as wintry white as the clouds in the sky. My coloring carefully camouflages me whether in the sky or on land. My white heart shaped face and shrieking and hissing sounds often lead people to confuse me with a ghastly ghost. 1
What Am I? My idea of a perfect meal is up to four tasty rodents a night. I am especially fond of a “whole vole.” My soundless soaring flight and honed hearing help me locate every meal. I can even catch my prey in total darkness. Did you know that my ears are not found on top of my head? Rather, they are shaped differently and are asymmetrically positioned just behind my eyes…allowing distinct sounds to reach my ears at different times! For a creature with “hard-to-see” ears, I sure do have a keen sense of hearing. 2
What Am I? I can be found on every continent except Antarctica. I like to take up residence in places with open countryside. My preference is to dwell in old buildings, trees, or caves. Here I am extremely content. 3
What Am I? I see 3-6 smaller versions of myself hatched each year. (Sometimes twice a year!) My mate and I work together to take care of our young owlets until they are ready to leave the nest. I am considered full grown at only 10 weeks old. What am I?............ 4
I am a…… Barn Owl! (Tyto alba) 5 ("Barnyard beauty," 2008)
Barn Owl-Wow! Facts • On average a barn owl eats 4 small rodents each night….1,460 per year! • Barn owls have even been recorded catching 60 mice per hour! • The oldest recorded wild barn owl in North America lived to be 11 years, 6 months. Now that’s something to boast about! 6
What Am I? I am rather petite in stature. In fact, I am the smallest owl in all of North America. I stand only 5 inches tall and weigh a mere ounce! My grayish-brown feathers are infused with bits cinnamon and tufts of white. I don’t have any ear tufts and my tail is very short. My eyes are as pale as the morning sun. They are highlighted by my wintry white eyebrows, a feature which makes my appearance pretty unique. My high pitched whistle sends the sound of “chee, chee, chee” through the air. 7
What Am I? As a nocturnal bird, I hunt mainly at night. My idea of the magnificent meal includes small insects and other invertebrate such as moths, grasshoppers, and crickets. On occasion, I can even be found munching on a lip-smacking lizard. I can hunt perched in trees, softly stalking on the ground, or soaring in flight. My small size and maneuverability in flight allow me to be specially suited to hunt from the air. Did you know that to catch some of my insect prey I sometimes hover above and wait for the insect to take flight. Then, I attack from midair! 8
What Am I? My favorite place to live is in deserts full of saguaro cacti, which I need to find shelter and water. I can also be found in wooded areas, ravines, canyons, plateaus, and even on mountain slopes. I make my home anywhere from the southwest USA all the way to Central Mexico and Baja California. During the winter, if I live in the northern climates, I venture (or migrate) south for a warmer winter. 9
What Am I? I see 2 to 4 smaller versions of myself hatched every year. My prize nesting spots can be either natural cavities or woodpecker holes left in trees. In the wild, I can live up to 6 years. What am I?........... 10
I am a…… Elf Owl! (Micrathene whitneyi) 11 ("Elf owl," 2009)
Elf Owl-Wow! Facts • If captured, I will play dead until I’m certain the danger has passed. • When danger does arrive, my motto is “flight, not fight!” • You might find me circling your campfire looking for the bugs that it attracts. 12
What Am I? I am a massive creature measuring up to 3 feet tall with a wide wingspan of 4-5 feet! My size, as well as my sharp talons and long beak give me an intimidating look. My body is covered in shades of gray speckled with bits of white and streaked with black. My “hoos” can be heard wafting through the forest air. 13
What Am I? I don’t just pounce, I plunge! I hunt during the daytime and I am not afraid to dive headfirst into deep snow and ice to catch my prey. I’m as powerful as missile! During the winter I pack on pounds. I’ll eat up to a third of my body weight in tasty voles. My large facial disks funnel even the smallest sounds to my ears to help me catch my prey. 14
What Am I? I can be found in northern North America and western Eurasia, as well as Canada and Alaska. I make my home in the tallest trees. I love to live in mature forests, but there must be plenty of room for flying. My size makes it difficult for me to maneuver in tight spaces. I often look for open meadows to make my hunting grounds. 15
What Am I? I can lay up to 3 eggs, often waiting a day or two between the laying of each egg. I am fiercely protective of my owlets. I will often starve myself in order to have food for my babies when food is scarce. You don’t want to mess with my owlets or me. My attack has been compared to “getting hit by a two by four with exposed nails.” Ouch! I can live up to 13 years in the wild and 27 in captivity! What am I?....... 16
I am a….. Great Gray Owl! (Strix nebulosa) ("Great grey owl," 2009) 17
Great Gray Owl-Wow! Facts • I can shatter snow crust thick enough to hold a 180 lb person in search of my prey. • My fluffy and feisty owlets don’t stay nest-bound for long. Because of their distinctive waste smell, they are forced to leave the nest even before they can fly. • A white “mustache strip” on the lower part of my face and a black “bow-tie” on my chin give me a distinguished look. 18
What Am I? I am a small ground dwelling owl. My sandy colored back gives me camouflage in the prairies and deserts in which I make my home. My long skinny legs are one of my most striking features. I can grow up to 9 inches tall and weigh up to 8 ounces. The sounds you might hear coming from me are a “coo,” a “rasp,” a “cluck,” “chatter,” or even a “scream.” 19
What Am I? You might have seen me hunting, because I love to be out during the day. I am most active at dusk or dawn, but I have been known to be out during any given 24 hour period when hunting. I hunt for many types of prey, often depending on where and when I can find my food. Some of my favorites are arthropods, small mammals, and birds. I catch my prey in many ways. I can walk, run, hop, and hover to catch my tasty meals. 20
What Am I? Since I am a “ground dweller,” you can find me in prairies or deserts in most of the Americas where other burrowing mammals make their home. I prefer these areas so that I can make use of their leftover homes. My backyard consists of open spaces filled with short grasses and soft soil for digging. I live in a loose colony, where we (the other burrowing owls and I) look out for each other and work together to drive off predators. 21
What Am I? I prefer to nest underground and will lay up to twelve eggs at a time. My small, white eggs are as precious as pearls to me. My mate and I work together to raise our young owlets. One of us guards the hatching eggs, while the other hunts for food. I can live up to 10 years in captivity and 9 in the wild. What am I?....... 22
I am a…… Burrowing Owl! (Athene cunicularia) ("Athene cunicularia burrowing," 2007) 23
Burrowing Owl-Wow! Facts • My scientific name (Athene cunicularia) means “little digger.” • I eat up to half of my body weight in food each day! • I have been known to bob up and down when excited. • If you were to see me fly you might laugh. My wing beats are irregular, meaning one wing is up while the other one is down. 24
Did you know? Did you know that one of the things that ALL of these owls have in common is pellets! • When an owl eats its prey, it rips its food into smaller pieces and swallows it all (meat, bones, fur, feathers, and all). • During the owl’s digestion, the meat is separated from the bones, fur, feathers, or other material and digested. • The bones, fur, feathers, etc. are regurgitated (or thrown up! Yuck!) in the form of a pellet. 25
Pellets! • Here’s a picture of an owl pellet: Can you point to the pellet? You can check out http://www.kidwings.com/owlpellets/flash/v4/index.htm to find out more on owl pellets and even virtually dissect your own owl pellet! ("Owl pellet!," 2006) 26
Owl Vocabulary • Prey- animals which are hunted for food by other animals • Nocturnal-things that are active only at night • Wingspan- the distance from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other wing • Owlet- a baby owl • Facial disk- the feathers surrounding an owl’s eyes • Talons- the claws of a bird • Camouflage- the markings and colors that allow something to blend into its background • Pellet- a mass of fur, feathers, bones, and other indigestible animal parts that are regurgitated by the owl after eating it’s prey 27
For Further Enjoyment… • The Barn Owl Trust-http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/infopage.html?Id=3 Barn Owl information especially for kids. Be sure to check out the barn cam and nest cam; they are beyond cool! • The Ultimate Guide: Birds of Prey: Barn Owl Hearing-http://videos.howstuffworks.com/discovery/30497-the-ultimate-guide-birds-of-prey-barn-owl-hearing-video.htm This video explains the exceptional hearing of the Barn Owl. • Western North Carolina Nature Center-Barn Owl- http://www.wildwnc.org/education/nest-box/barn-owl?searchterm=Barn Easy to read information on Barn Owls in North Carolina. • Carolina Raptor Center-Barn Owls- http://www.carolinaraptorcenter.org/barn_owl.php The Carolina Raptor Center is located in Charlotte, NC. They have a Barn Owl that you can check out in person. In the meantime, you can visit their great site to learn more about Barn Owls. • The Owl Pages-Barn Owls- http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Tyto&species=alba You can check out the various sounds of the Barn Owl on this site as well as learn even more information on Barn Owls. • Butterfield, M, & Ford, W. (1997). Quick, quiet, and feathered what am i?. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers. This is a what am I? book written just for Barn Owls. It is a must read!
For Further Enjoyment… • Elf Owl Fact Sheet-Especially For Kids-http://www.desertmuseum.org/kids/oz/long-fact-sheets/elf%20owl.php Elf Owl information especially for kids. • Think quest-Elf Owls-http://library.thinkquest.org/J0110868/ Think quest is a site created by students for students. Check out this great think quest created by 4th grade students on Elf Owls. • The Owl Pages-Elf Owls http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Micrathene&species=whitneyi You can check out the various sounds of the Elf Owl on this site as well as learn even more information on Elf Owls. • National Geographic Magazine-Great Gray Owls: Winged Silence-http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0502/feature4/index.html This is a wonderful article by Lynne Warren all about Great Gray Owls. Be sure to check out the photographs by Daniel J. Cox; they are amazing! Also take a look at the fields note by both the author and the photographer about their time with these owls. • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources-Great Gray Owls-http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/birds/greatgrayowl.html A great site to check out Great Gray Owls in Minnesota. Be sure to take a look at the map and fun facts.
For Further Enjoyment… • Think quest-Great Gray Owls-http://library.thinkquest.org/J0110861/ Think quest is a site created by students for students. Check out this great think quest created by 4th grade students on Great Gray Owls. • Think quest- Burrowing Owls-http://library.thinkquest.org/J0110864/ Think quest is a site created by students for students. Check out this great think quest created by 4th grade students on Burrowing Owls. • The Owl Pages-Burrowing Owls http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Athene&species=cunicularia You can check out the various sounds of the Burrowing Owl on this site as well as learn even more information on Burrowing Owls. • Carolina Raptor Center-Burrowing Owls- http://www.carolinaraptorcenter.org/burrowing_owl.php The Carolina Raptor Center is located in Charlotte, NC. They have a Burrowing Owl that you can check out in person. In the meantime, you can visit their great site to learn more about Burrowing Owls.
Images • Owl feather. (2010). [Web]. Retrieved from http://inthecompostpile.blogspot.com/2010/08/molly-owl.html • Barnyard beauty. (2008). [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/80835774@N00/2535241172 • Elf owl. (2009). [Web]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elf_Owl.jpg • Great grey owl. (2009). [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-265129355 • Athene cunicularia burrowing owl. (2007). [Web]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Athene-cunicularia-burrowing-owl-0a.jpg • Owl pellet!. (2006). [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/75325073@N00/291060603 Other Resources…… Special Thanks to Dr. Beth Frye for her help with the Barn Owl section.