Birds of Prey Visit

During science lessons pupils have been studying animals including humans.  When identifying local community links, we were fortunate to find that we had a local falconer, who has a number of owls and hawks.  The owls and hawks have been rehabilitated from previously poor living conditions and the children were very keen to learn more about them and use their scientific knowledge and vocabulary.

  • Year 1 pupils were able to identify them as birds because of the feathers, wings and beak. The children also knew that they tend to eat mice, which made them carnivores. 
  • Year 2 pupils were able to use their knowledge to discuss what the birds needed to survive, which included food and shelter. This led to an interesting discussion about the decline of the barn owl due to the loss of barns for housing - the pupils could identify that the barn owls were losing their shelter, which they used for protection.
  • Year 3 pupils could talk about why it was important for the owls to be able to catch their prey. They knew they needed food to survive and get the nutrients that they need.  This led to a discussion about how owls locate their prey.  The pupils were fascinated to learn that the barn owl uses its sensitive hearing, whereas birds of prey like kestrels follow trails of urine from the mice and that is why we see them hovering over fields.  Pupils learnt that during wet or snowy conditions kestrels cannot find their prey so they watch and follow barn owls to steal their food.
  • Year 4 are studying food chains. They could identify that the owl was a predator as it largely fed on mice or other rodents.  Pupils were able to talk about crops being a producer, the mice being a consumer and the owl a predator.  Having previously discussed toxins within food chains, pupils were quick to explain why farmers poisoning mice in their barns has impacted negatively on owl numbers.  Later in the day, year 4 dissected owl pellets to see what they had been eating. The children found the bones, teeth, fur and even skulls of many different rodents, which they could identify.
  • Year 5 are studying the human life cycle. They were able to apply their knowledge and compare this with the life cycle of birds.  They identified that unlike humans, birds laid eggs and that birds become adults much faster, becoming less dependent on adults at an earlier stage.  The visitor was able to talk about the life expectancy of owls in the wild and captivity.  Due to habitat loss, climate change and loss of food, life expectancy in the wild was much less.  This got pupils wondering as to whether the life cycle of humans and life expectancy could vary across different human populations.
  • Year 6 have been studying digestion. The children could articulate the digestion process in humans and identify how this compared to the birds.  They were intrigued to find out that unlike humans, the birds could not chew their food and so swallowed food items whole.  When questioned, pupils described how they would expect the food to be broken down by the stomach acid.  They were surprised to hear that the indigestible food was regurgitated as owl pellets, which contained the bones and fur of prey items.  

It was a fascinating experience for all - take a look!!!