For BRDCs Give Me Shelter course, students built and installed nest and roosting boxes for owls, bats, ducks and bluebirds. They learned about nesting strategies, comparing the enormous variety of bird and bat nests, and the importance of incorporating features preferred by the particular bird species, including the entrance hole size, the height at which the box is posted, and the type of habitat surrounding the box.
During the week, students constructed a blue-bird box to take home, then moved on to building a screech owl, bat, wood duck and one other blue-bird box. Everyone got to help paint and decorate the boxes with an eye towards fun.
Students also examined bird feathers, skulls, feet, and wings. They participated in building nests and examining owl pellets.
Owls swallow most prey whole, and at some point in their digestive process the bones and fur are separated and eventually coughed up in the form of a mucous covered ball, or pellet. These pellets reveal what animal the owl had for a meal, and offer student-scientists the opportunity to better understand the diet of owls, and small mammal populations in a given area.
On Friday, in the frigid wind, the group placed nesting boxes on Dr. Robert Pryor's land, including protective baffles. The boxes were positioned to take advantage of early morning sun. The kids had a great time, and by week's end they understood the difference between open nesting and cavity nesting, as well as bird habitat and diet.