Budding Ornithologists

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Ms. McCarthy’s second-grade students at Miller Avenue Elementary School were not afraid to get their hands dirty as they sifted through owl pellets to determine what these birds of prey eat. Teaching assistant Mary Anne McCarrick collected owl pellets from area farms and provided the youngsters with tools to separate the bones of digested tiny animals from the dirt, fur, and feathers in the pellet.
     
“The real treasures of the owl are found inside the pellet,” Principal Lou Parrinello explained during a class about owls. “This is how we can prove what owls eat.”
    
Prior to examining the pellets, the students received a lesson on owl anatomy. They also read a New York Times article about the decrease of acorns on the East Coast and how this phenomenon will later affect the owl’s food chain. With the use of a projector, Mr. Parrinello demonstrated to students the proper way to dissect a pellet and how to match their findings to the pictures of animal bones displayed on a ditto. While working in pairs, the students enthusiastically separated the bones from the owl pellets and graphed the number of mouse, vole, bird, rat, and shrew bones to compare with other groups’ findings. The students also had the opportunity to examine their treasures under a microscope.