Sunday, April 22, 2012
Classroom Chat Q&A with EagleEye - 4/19/12
10:28 jenuin16: TY!
10:28 EagleEye_: ops I spelled your name wrong, sorry, it is hard some times typing with talons ;)
10:28 jenuin16: LOL
10:29 EagleEye_: We are so happy that you have had the opportunity to watch Mel & Syds nest this year and share in the wonderful world of wildlife and what it takes to survive in the wild.
10:30 jenuin16: We have loved it.
10:30 EagleEye_: At this age the owlets are now old enough not to need Syd, the mom in the nest all day as they are growing and developing, now they are old enough to regulate thier body temperature and can swallow food whole so the parents spend the day out side the nest
10:31 EagleEye_: Most of the day the owlets spend sleeping, preening, grooming and practice grabbing things with thier feet to develop the skill to use thier feet when they leave the nest
10:32 EagleEye_: Your teacher gave me questions you had about the owls so I'll start with those now.
10:32 EagleEye_: Cecilia asks: How big is the owl box and Is this the first time it is being used?
10:32 EagleEye_: ? The Barn Owl nest box is 30" long, 18" high, 16" wide and is located about 16 feet above ground level. This is the 2nd year that Mel & Syd have used this nest.
10:33 EagleEye_: Mannaica asks: Does it keep the babies safe from predators, or can something still get in?
10:33 EagleEye_: Being so high in the sky it keeps the owlets safe from animals living on the ground and also being enclosed they are safe from most predators.
10:33 EagleEye_: Michelle asks: Are the babies going to still live in the box after they grow up, or do they have to find another box?
10:34 EagleEye_: Mel & Syd will not allow them back to the nest after they lay the next clutch of eggs. In some cases like we have seen here “Dinky” the youngest one from last years off spring keeps coming to visit but Mel & Syd don’t allow him to get to close or comfortable with the nest.
10:34 EagleEye_: Cecilia asks: How can we tell the difference between Mel and Sydney?
10:34 EagleEye_: First by size, the females in bird of prey species is always larger than the males. Then we also look at their colors, Mel is much more whiter on his chest and face and Syd has more spots and has a rusty color. We can also tell by behavior with owls since only the female incubates the eggs and cares for the young.
10:35 EagleEye_: Zhane asks: How many babies can they have?
10:35 EagleEye_: They lay eggs according to how plentiful the prey is in the area so if there are a lot of rodents then they will lay a lot of eggs, it can be from 4 -12 eggs but it depends a lot on the environment around them, nature seems to know what the right number is.
10:36 EagleEye_: Tamiyah asks: How much does a month old owlet weigh and How much does an adult owl weigh?
10:36 EagleEye_: A month old owlet weights less then half a pound and in adult owls the males weigh about 15.oz and the female weights about 20 ounces so that is just a little over a pound.
10:36 EagleEye_: Tyler asks: How long is an adult Barn Owl’s wing compared to an Adult Bald Eagle’s wing?
10:37 EagleEye_: An owls wing span is approximately 40 plus inches which is about 3 feet, it depends on the size and sex of the owl. A Bald Eagles wing span is 72-96 inches which is equivalent to 6-8 ft.
10:37 EagleEye_: am I going to fast or is it ok?
10:38 EagleEye_: Mrs. Forshey comments & asks: About two weeks ago, we saw an owlet with a mouse in its beak, shaking it up and down. It looked so funny like it was dancing! I had told the students that this was because the baby didn’t know how to use its talons to hold the food down and tear it. I have since learned that I was wrong about how owls eat. Would you please give a much better
10:38 EagleEye_: answer than mine about how owls eat and what the owlet was trying to do by bouncing its head up and down?
10:39 EagleEye_: What you saw was the owlet first having to learn to position the prey “head first” because that is the way it has to be in order to go down their throat with out the tail or feet creating a problem bending the wrong way.
10:39 EagleEye_: The action the owlets make by bouncing their heads up and down is contracting the muscles in its jaw and throat pulling the food down into it’s digestive system. If you have ever seen a snake eat it is pretty similar in the contraction movements made.
10:40 EagleEye_: Carynna asks: I saw a hole in their mouth. How can they live with that?
10:40 EagleEye_: What you are seeing is the breathing hole in their tongue, this is the air way they use when they are eating and moving food down their throat, with this air hole in their tongue they can swallow whole prey and not choke or pass out from lack of oxygen.
10:41 EagleEye_: Tapanga asks: What other things do they eat? Do they eat any human food?
10:41 EagleEye_: Their diet consists of only meat so they eat rodents like rats, mice, gophers and rabbits, they can’t digest vegetables at all so they are strictly “carnivores” which means meat eaters.
10:42 EagleEye_: Raven asks: We know that an eagle egg is about the size of a tennis ball and a humming bird egg is a small as a Tic Tac mint. How does an owl egg compare in size?
10:42 EagleEye_: An owl egg is approximately the same size as a golf ball or a ping pong ball.
10:42 EagleEye_: Carynna asks: Why do they look so pink when they hatch?
10:43 EagleEye_: When they hatch they have hardly any feathers at all they just have small “downy” feathers that will grow so you are actually seeing their pink skin.
10:43 EagleEye_: Sean asks: How much do the babies have to eat per day? What about for an adult?
10:43 EagleEye_: The amount they need to eat is based on how old they are, very young owlets only need about half a mouse per day were the older ones are ok with just a couple rodents per day. An adult owl can survive on just one gopher or rat per day. A lot depends on how much energy they are expending, the more active they are the more food they need.
10:44 EagleEye_: Evana asks: Will Mel and Sydney stay together, like eagles do?
10:44 EagleEye_: Yes, all most all birds will remain together their entire lives once they bond and become mates. This bond is what makes them such great parents.
10:45 EagleEye_: Anthony asks: We can’t wait to see the owlets fly! When do you think they will fly for the first time?
10:45 EagleEye_: The young “fledge” when they are all most 2 months old, 52-56 days from the hatching date.
10:45 EagleEye_: Willy asks: Do they keep growing after the first year?
10:46 EagleEye_: By the time they fledge from the nest they are about full grown and will not get any bigger but they will molt their feathers each year and by the second year their adult colors come in and you can tell if they are male or female.
10:46 EagleEye_: Jia Wei asks: How old will an owl be when it gets to be an adult and starts looking for a partner and have babies?
10:46 EagleEye_: They will be considered adults at 2 years of age and by then have mastered the skills of hunting and surviving in the wild. At this time they find their own territory if they are a male and will then make calls to attract a female to nest with.
10:47 EagleEye_: Zhane asks: Do owls hibernate?
10:47 EagleEye_: No, owls do not hibernate, they have to stay active and hunt all year because of their body size and they don’t accumulate a lot of fat to live off of like bears.
10:48 EagleEye_: No, they are in fact enemies but because Eagles are day time predators and owls are night time hunters they don’t come into much contact with each other.
10:48 EagleEye_: Evana asks: Do owls have ancestors?
10:49 EagleEye_: Yes they do! The earliest “Birds of Prey” were called “Velociraptors” which means 'swift seizer”, this is where the word “Raptors” comes from which describes birds with large talons the hunt from the sky. Do you remember seeing the movie “Jurasic Park” and the Velociaptors in it??
10:49 jenuin16: YES!
10:50 EagleEye_: Right, they had to keep them in a special facility because they were so "Vicious" and they also made the comment about how intelligent they were.
10:50 EagleEye_: Sharice asks: Where do the owls “poop”? We have seen the “poop-shoots” from the eaglets, but not from the owlets
10:51 EagleEye_: The owlets poop just like the Eagles but since they are in an enclosed nest they do not move back wards to aim over the side but as they get older they do move back away from the main living area of the nest.
10:52 EagleEye_: Mrs. Forshey comments and asks: Oh, so that’s why the bottom of their barn house looks pretty dirty. What else is in all that stuff?
10:52 EagleEye_: Their nest is lined with the ‘pellets” that they cast up, “casting” is the term used to describe their regurgitating undigested fur and bones from their food. This is pulled apart by the mother owl to make a nice soft bedding for them.
10:53 EagleEye_: Zalayna asks: Do they ever clean it out?
10:53 EagleEye_: The owls don’t purposely clean it out but as they get older the nesting material starts to pile up and does start getting kicked out of the nest. The young owlets also use the pellets to learn how to use their feet and toes to “talon” things and build up strength.
10:54 EagleEye_: You also asked if owls come back to the same place to have babies or do they look for a newer (cleaner) place?
10:54 EagleEye_: They come back to the same nest every time since it is their territory and home. The entire nest is a mini ecosystem that is alive (yes complete with bugs) and is interdependent on each thing in there for survival.
10:54 EagleEye_: Kayleen asks: Sometimes the area around the owlets face seems to reflect light (glow). Is that sometime just seen because of the camera, or do these owls have special feathers that reflect light around the face?
10:55 EagleEye_: That is a really good observation and question, the effect you are seeing is the feathers as they reflect the light which is what causes the changing colors making it appear at times to glow.
10:56 EagleEye_: here is the explanation that "kanga" gave me last night whish is very good and complet in describing the effect
10:56 EagleEye_: Bird feathers are made up of many tiny interlocking "strands" that each have even smaller parts to them. Due to their different structure, feathers can have an appearance similar to that of a glass prism breaking light into different colors - this is called refraction.
10:57 EagleEye_: Colors that are formed through refraction of light in this way are brighter and more metallic or even shiny looking than those that are coloured by pigments. All the tiny face feathers on the owlets can refract light in the same way so it looks like a shiny reflection.
10:57 jenuin16: So cooool!!
10:57 EagleEye_: yes it is a cool thing how nature works!
10:57 EagleEye_: Mrs. Forshey asks: In Florida, we have Burrowing Owls, one of the smallest owls. They look very different from the Barn Owls. How many different kinds of owls are there?
10:58 EagleEye_: This is a difficult question because species come and go, but because of DNA studies there is approx. over 150 species but scientists argue about this a lot. If you look at a “Burrowing Owl’s” legs you can see how much more leg there is then in other owls and that is because they use them to dig in the ground to make their nests.
10:58 EagleEye_: Here in Florida besides the Barn Owl we also have the Great Horn Owl, the Barred Owl and the littlest one of all the Eastern Screech Owl. Also native to North America we have the tiniest of all called “Elf Owls” and the biggest of all the Great Grey owl. There are all different kinds of owls and each one is designed to live in their specific habitat.
10:59 EagleEye_: Is there anything else you think we should know about Mel and Sydney that we didn’t ask? I think you have asked a lot of really good questions but here is some more info for you:
10:59 EagleEye_: Are owls color blind?
11:00 pelicanlover-2: When will Maggie & Boomer be able to go outside of nest and explore?
11:00 EagleEye_: No, they can see color, especially “red” the color of blood and meat, they are nocturnal and have a poorer color vision then their day time counter parts like hawks and eagles. What they lack in vision they make up with their hearing.
11:00 moobird: Please hold off Q: till Q&A with class is finished ty
11:00 EagleEye_: How does Syd communicate with the babies?
11:01 EagleEye_: She made a low trilling sound to them while still in the egg, then to call them to eat, she also makes some chirping sounds to talk to them. They learned the sound of her voice while still in the egg
11:01 EagleEye_: now after sun down when you watch them they get very excited way before we even see a parent coming in with food, this is because they have learned the voice of Mel also and can hear them calling as they come with food.
11:01 EagleEye_: How old can an owl live to be?
11:02 EagleEye_: The oldest record for a Barn Owl is in Holland 17 yrs, 10 months, in the US was 11 yrs 6 months but because of all the dangers in the wild it isn’t normal to live that long so those were lucky owls.
11:02 EagleEye_: Do owls have eyelids?
11:02 EagleEye_: Yes they do, in fact they have a 3 eye lids, 2 just like ours then one called a “Nictating Membrane” which is just like a reptiles clear transparent eye lid which comes down over the eye to protect it from injury when they are catching prey.
11:03 EagleEye_: Do they have neck vertebrae how do they turn their head like that?
11:03 EagleEye_: Yes they do and this is what makes them so unique! They have twice as many as we do, a total of 14 vertebrae which allows them to turn their neck around all most all the way, but they have to bring it back, they can’t spin it around.
11:04 EagleEye_: Do you have any more questions that you would like to know about Mel, Syd the owlets and living in the wild?
11:06 EagleEye_: I hope my answers to your questions has given you a better understanding of what life is like in the owl nest for these Barn Owls and that you have learned some interesting things from this experience :)
11:06 moobird: (Y)
11:07 OhioCheryle: this was just wonderful EE and Mrs. Forshey's class <3
11:07 moobird: Not sure if we are done?
11:07 EagleEye_: If I am correct there are a total of 4 3rd grade classes here watching this and I hope my sharing with all of you has helped you to understand the wonderful world of Barn Owls
11:08 jenuin16: Thank You soo much!
11:08 jenuin16: We were a little behind in reading...we just caught up.
11:08 EagleEye_: If they don't have any more questions then I think we are done and I want to thank you all for wanting to do this and letting me share with you the things I know.
11:08 jenuin16: WE all loved the terrific information! Eagle Eye, you are the best!
11:09 moobird: Thanks EE and Mrs. Forshey's Class
11:09 EagleEye_: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with your classes, it was an honor to be able to answer your questions
11:09 moobird: Great job EE
11:09 OhioCheryle: fantastic EE !!!
11:10 EagleEye_: Thank you, does any one else have any questions for me while I am here?
11:10 OhioCheryle: hehe you answered all of mine the other day :)
11:10 pelicanlover-2: Are their feathers starting to come in?
11:10 EagleEye_: yes thier feathers are coming in wonderfuly
11:10 Tug47: Thank you EE this was great information
11:11 pelicanlover-2: I thought they sleep during day. Are they expecting a feeding during daytime?
11:11 EagleEye_: you can see thier little tail feathers and also when they stretch the wings you can see the primaries and secondaries coming in also thier "facial" disks are really starting to show nicely
11:11 jenuin16: Thank you all chaters for letting us have this time. What a wonderful learning and teaching experience for us.
11:11 OhioCheryle: thank you !!! <3
11:12 EagleEye_: your very welcome Mrs. Forshey and we are very happy to share with you <3