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Food for Feathered Friends

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Earth & Environmental Science Volunteer Activities
Main Image
Earth & Environmental Science Volunteer Activities
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Time Needed for Activity

Students obtain a fundamental understanding of food chains, food webs, dominant and keystone species by conducting an owl pellet dissection, engaging in a food chain activity and building their own bird feeder.

This virtual outreach activity is split into a pre-activity document - i.e., workshop overview and list of materials with preparation instructions for both the volunteer and educator, a post-activity document - i.e., extra information and resources for the educator after the activity, and a PowerPoint presentation with presenter notes to help lead the workshop virtually. 

What You Need

Activity 1: Owl Pellet Dissection

  • Owl pellet
  • Plastic forceps/Tweezers (or multiple toothpicks, in case they break)
  • Small foil tray (styrofoam bowl, plate)
  • Pair of gloves
  • Bone sheet
  • Blank paper
  • Writing utensil
  • Scotch tape

Activity 2: Food Chain - No materials required

Activity 3: Bird Feeder

  • Disposable tablecloth (scrap paper, plastic sheet, newspaper)
  • Gloves (Napkins/Paper towels)
  • 1-2 Napkins
  • Pinecone (Paper town/toilet paper roll or apple with the core removed)
  • Vegetable shortening (Nut based butter (i.e. peanut, almond butter) if student does NOT have allergies or lard
  • Spoon (Butter knife)
  • Ziploc (Paper bag or container to store bird feeder)
  • Plate (bowl)
  • String (yarn)
  • Seeds, dried fruit, raisins, unsalted peanuts, uncooked oats, unseasoned pumpkin seeds

IMPORTANT: Do not use milk products, seasoned/salted items, honey, meat, bread, baked goods, beans, lentils or junk food.

PowerPoint:

Pre-Activity Document:

 

Safety Notes

Ensure you are familiar with Let's Talk Science's precautions with respect to safe delivery of virtual outreach to youth. These precautions can be found in the manual for this activity. 

Beware of allergies when completing this activity.

What To Do

Activity 1: Owl Pellet Dissection

NOTE: Once you put on your gloves, DO NOT touch your face. If your gloves rip, ask your educator or caregiver for new gloves.

  1. Place your owl pellet in the center of your disposable tray. Remove the tin foil covering.
  2. Choose one end of the tray to be for "garbage" and one end for "bones"
  3. Use one hand to hold down the pellet on the tray and with the other hand, hold the forceps.
  4. Pull the fur off the pellet using the forceps. Place the fur on the "garbage" side. Place the bones you find on the "bones" side. Pull the fur off the bones.
  5. Identify the bones by: 
    a) Placing the bones on a piece of paper. Tape them down to hold them in place.
    b) Use the Bone Identification Chart to identify the bones.
    c) Write down the bones' names on paper.
  6. Clean up. Put the waste in the center of your tray. Take off your gloves without touching your skin.
  7. WASH YOUR HANDS.

Activity 2: Food Chain

Let's make our own food chain! For this activity, we are all going to participate. You have the right to pass, but we encourage you to try, even if you're just guessing.

For the activity, we are starting with our primary consumer. One person is going to choose an animal. The next person will choose an animal that can eat that animal, and the third person will choose an animal that can eat the second and we'll continue like that.

Example: Grass --> Beetle --> Bluebird --> Snake

Activity 3: Bird Feeder

This activity can be messy! Before we begin:

  • Cover your workspace.
    You can use: plastic tablecloth, scrap paper, or newspaper.
  • Wear gloves or have napkins near you.
  1. On a plate, place only you pinecone, cardboard roll, or apple with the core removed.
  2. Using your spoon, cover it in vegetable shortening or nut butter.
  3. Place seeds/nuts/dried berries on one side of the plate and the pinecone/cardboard roll/apple on the other. Spread the seeds out.
  4. Roll the pinecone/cardboard roll/apple over the seeds, nuts, or dried berries until it is covered.
  5. Use your hands to sprinkle the seeds over any remaining gaps on your pinecone/cardboard roll/apple.
  6. If using a pinecone, tie a piece of string to hang on a branch. Leave the other end unknotted so you can tie it around a branch. If using a cardboard roll or apple with the core removed, you can slide it onto a branch or thread a string to hang on a tree.
  7. Store your bird feeder in a paper bag, ziploc or container until you are able to hang it on a tree. 

NOTE: Hang your birdfeeder up in 1-2 days. DO NOT eat your birdfeeder or any materials. 

Discovery

What's Happening?

Students learn about key differences and similarities between birds and mammals and about animal classification. Based on their understanding, students conduct an owl pellet dissection and try to identify organisms that the owl may have eaten. Further, students develop an understanding of how food chains and food webs exist in the ecosystem by playing an interactive food chain activity. Lastly, students build their own bird feeder. 

What's Happening?

Students learn about key differences and similarities between birds and mammals and about animal classification. Based on their understanding, students conduct an owl pellet dissection and try to identify organisms that the owl may have eaten. Further, students develop an understanding of how food chains and food webs exist in the ecosystem by playing an interactive food chain activity. Lastly, students build their own bird feeder. 

Why Does It Matter?

Why does it matter what owls eat?

Owls and the animals they eat are part of an ecosystem. The reason that we care what owls or any organism eats is because all organisms are connected in an ecosystem. An ecosystem is made up of communities of living and non-living things. These living and non-living things interact in many ways. 

Why are food chains important?

Food chains exist all around us in different habitats (Oceans, lakes, mountains, forests). Food chains in different habits can vary and are very important to the overall ecosystem. Ecosystems are a lot more complex than a simple food chain. Multiple food chains can combine in an ecosystem - this is called a food web. 

Why is there a need for bird feeders in the winter?

Resources (food) are low in the winter. Bird feeders are an accessible source of food for birds.

Why should we use vegetable shortening or nut-based butter in bird feeders we use during the winter?

The lack of insects during the winter means that the main source of fat for birds is missing. Vegetable shortening or nut-based butters are a source of fat for birds.

Why Does It Matter?

Why does it matter what owls eat?

Owls and the animals they eat are part of an ecosystem. The reason that we care what owls or any organism eats is because all organisms are connected in an ecosystem. An ecosystem is made up of communities of living and non-living things. These living and non-living things interact in many ways. 

Why are food chains important?

Food chains exist all around us in different habitats (Oceans, lakes, mountains, forests). Food chains in different habits can vary and are very important to the overall ecosystem. Ecosystems are a lot more complex than a simple food chain. Multiple food chains can combine in an ecosystem - this is called a food web. 

Why is there a need for bird feeders in the winter?

Resources (food) are low in the winter. Bird feeders are an accessible source of food for birds.

Why should we use vegetable shortening or nut-based butter in bird feeders we use during the winter?

The lack of insects during the winter means that the main source of fat for birds is missing. Vegetable shortening or nut-based butters are a source of fat for birds.

Resources

PowerPoint:

Pre-Activity Document:

Post-Activity Document: