Script for
Owls - Predators of the Night


Slide 1.  Owls – Predators of the Night

·       They are found on every continent aside from Antarctica

·       There are about 250 owl species in the world,

·       38 species in North America

·       why do we have the expression 'wise as an owl'? they look smart. It's their enormous eyes. In humans, large pupils are equated with focusing and attention being paid. An owl's large, dark eyes make it look like it is paying attention.

Slide 2.    Key Characteristic of an owl

·       Owls are in a group called raptors

·       Can be identified by many key physical characteristics

·       unusually type of “hooting”

Slide   3   Different types of Owl  (go over characteristics)

·       Barn -  hear-shaped pale face with dark eyes; long legs, wing span 42 inches; mixed buff and gray upper parts and wings

·       Green Horned – upper wings are mottled brown; feet and legs are black and has tuffs of feathers that look like horns

·       Burrowing Owl – brown body with speckles of white, small (10 inches)  bright yellow eyes

·       Pygmy Owl – mostly brown and white, have a long tail, bright yellow eyes, no larger than 6 inches

·       Northern Barred Owl – mottle brown and white; with almost black eyes, vertical brown bars on white chest, large owl

Slide 4.   Why do Owls have big eyes

·       Owls have big eyes for their head size

·       If we had eyes to the same proportion our eyes would be the size of oranges!

·       hy do they need such big eyes 

Slide 5.  Owl Eyesight  

·       Owl eyes can’t move like ours.  Instead they are in big bony tubes. 

·       Like when you look through binoculars.

·       How do they make up for the fact they can’t move their eyes back and forth?

·       They move their head!


Slide 6.  Owl head movement

·       Owls make up for their fixed eyes by turning their heads

·       Owls have a remarkable ability to turn their heads almost all the way to the back of their body or even upside-down!  

Slide 7.  Owl hearing

·       Owls have really good hearing and special adaptations so they can zero in on their prey.

·       Dish shaped face focuses sound

·       Fully nocturnal owls like barn owls have  ears are not at the same level on their head

·       Helps they pin point exactly where their prey is

Slide 8.  Feathers – Silent Flight

·       Comb-like serrations on the leading edge of wing feathers break up the turbulent air that typically creates a swooshing sound.

·       Those smaller streams of air are further dampened by a velvety texture unique to owl feathers and by a soft fringe on a wing's trailing edge.

·       These structures together streamline the air flow and absorb the sound

Slide 9.  Owl habitat

·       Owls live in a variety of habitats, including coniferous forests, mountains, deserts, and plains.

·       The snowy owl lives in the cold tundra of the north.

·       Owls nest in a variety of ways. Several species, such as great gray and great horned owls, live in old hawk or squirrel nests

Slide 10.    Can you identify an owl by is nest?

·       Owls are talented hunters, but nest builders they are not.

·       Many owls take advantage of the hard work performed by other animals, instead of building their nests from scratch.

·        If local food supplies are low in a given year, owls may not breed there. But if enough food is available to feed a growing family, female owls lay one to fourteen roundish white eggs.

·       Females from different owl species lay different numbers of eggs. The number also depends on how much food is available. For example, if local vole populations are high, a female Short-eared Owl might lay as many as ten eggs. If the vole population is low, she might lay just three or four eggs, or none at all. 

Slide 11.   Great Horned

·       Two tufts of feathers like look like horns

·       Yellow eyes

·       Take down prey much larger than itself such as hawks and falcons 

Slide 12.   Great Horned

·       Normal life span 20-30 yrs

·       Females bigger than male range from 2.5-4 lbs

·       Eat whatever is available

·       Use other structures for nests

·       Lay 2-4 eggs

·       Owlets start to fly in 3-4 months

Slide13.  Barn Owl

·       white, heart shaped face

·       very, very good hearing! Can take down prey in total darkness.

·       is mostly seen at night

·       its call sounds like someone screaming, will play later on

·       the facial disc or “heart” is what aids its hearing

·        its long legs allow the owl to capture prey with its talons in long grass

Slide 14.  Barn Owl

·       1-1.5 lbs; nests in holes in trees, cliffs, crevices, caves and barns

·       Nest is made of her pellets shredded with feet and arranged in a cup

·       Use nest for roosting and used from year to year

·       2-18 eggs; nesting period 55 days

Slide 15.  Burrowing Owls

·       Small, about 10 inches

·       Live in underground dens

·       Sandy color wih bright yellow eyes

·       Female is larger, live in underground  burrow they either dug themselves or from abandoned burrow

Slide 16.  Burrowing Owls

·       Mainly eat insects and rodents

·       Live in open habitat like grasslands or desert areas

·       Birds in courtship may repeatedly fly up, hover, and descend.

·       On ground near nest burrow, male feeds female; members of pair nibble at each other's bills and preen each other's feathers.

·       Nest site is in burrow in ground, in area surrounded by bare soil or short grass.


Slide 17.   Northern Barred Owl

·       Courtship involves both male and female bobbing and bowing heads, raising wings, and calling while perched close together. Male may feed female in courtship. 

·       2-3, rarely 4. White. Incubation is mostly or entirely by female, about 28-33 days; male brings food to incubating female.

Slide 18.   Northern Barred Owl

·       Hunts by night or day, perhaps most at dawn and dusk.

·       Seeks prey by watching from perch, also by flying low through forest

·       may hover before dropping to clutch prey in talons.

·       Hunts by a variety of methods, including swooping down from a perch, hovering over fields, or running along ground, then clutching prey in its talons. 

Slide 19.  Northern Pygmy Owl 

·       Northern Pygmy-Owls lay their eggs in the debris at the bottom of tree cavities, where there may be wood chips, decomposing leaves, or nests of other birds

·       2-7 eggs, small

Slide 20.  Northern Pygmy Owl 

·       Found in a wide variety of forest types, including open oak groves, sycamores in canyons, pine-oak woodland

·       The Northern Pygmy-Owl may be tiny, but it’s a ferocious hunter

·       small and unobtrusive as they sit and wait for prey

Slide 21.   What do owls eat?

·       Owl food chains and web is complicated

·       They will eat rodents, insects, rodents and even other birds

·       Larger owls can eat baby raccoons and other small mammals

Slide 22.  Digestion of an owl

·       Owls eat prey whole and their stomachs separate the fur and bones  and then belches them through their mouth

·       Owl pellets will contain non digestible items

·       Double stomachs – no acid like human stomach

·       Gizzards is a muscular stomach

Slide 23.  Owl Pellets

·       A pellet, in ornithology, is the mass of undigested parts of a bird's food that some bird species occasionally regurgitate.

·       The contents of a bird's pellet depend on its diet, but can include the exoskeletons of insects, indigestible plant matter, bones, fur, feathers, bills, claws, and teeth

·       You can find pellets under trees where owls roost

Slide 17.    Population studies of small rodents  

·       Wildlife biologist use pellets to see the population of small organisms in an area  

·       and what owls eat

Slide 18.   Age of population    

·       Bones can tell you how old individuals are

·       Some have calcium build up

·       Some bones are not fused

Slide 26.  Vole Skeleton

·       Voles are a small rodent that are abundant

·       Owls like to eat this tasty meal

·       Looking at pellets you can identification bone

Slide 27.  Vole Skeleton

·       This slide can be used to identify bones as students look at their owl pellet