Congratulations to this month’s Zooworks winners for their amazing poems and stories about birds of prey!
Owls are some of the world’s most beloved birds of prey: their big eyes and round faces are pretty adorable! But what actually makes an owl an owl– what separates it from other birds of prey?
Like all birds of prey, owls have keen eyesight and sharp beaks and claws. Owls’ eyes face forward like ours, giving them what’s called binocular vision. Their eyes are fixed in their sockets, so they turn their heads to see what’s going on to their left and right. The feathers on their round faces help funnel light to their eyes so they can see better in the dark, and they also help direct sound to their keen ears. The tufts of feathers on top of most owls’ heads aren’t actually their ears, though– like all birds, their ears are tiny openings on their heads. Those big tufts are probably for camouflage or to signal to other owls.
Good hearing and eyesight help owls to hunt during the night– just about all owl species are nocturnal, so they need extra-sharp senses to hunt in the dark! They also have soft-edged feathers so that they can fly silently and take their prey by surprise.
Photo by Charlesjsharp
Harpy eagles are some of the world’s strangest birds of prey. They’re named after the Harpies from Greek mythology, which were said to be wind spirits with the body of a bird and the face of a human. If people went missing, it was said that they’d been carried away by Harpies. Harpy eagles have been known to carry things off too– they’re apex predators, and their main prey are monkeys and sloths.
Harpy eagles have the largest talons of any living eagle, and their wingspans can reach nearly seven and a half feet. Overall, they’re pretty fearsome predators, but don’t let that scare you away– look at their goofy faces!
Photo by Bjoyn Christian Torrissen
The school year’s winding down, but there are lots of fun ways to keep your kids thinking creatively over the summer! Zoo Atlanta’s website is a great place to start. In addition to posting information about the amazing animals that live there, Zoo Atlanta has tips for awesome crafts for your family to do. If your little readers have been enjoying Zoobooks Birds of Prey, be sure to check out these instructions for making a colorful construction paper bird!
The latest Zootles issue highlights baby animals– cute, tiny, critters. But not all animal babies are small.
Blue whales are the largest animals ever to live– bigger than the biggest dinosaurs. So it makes sense that their babies are the biggest, too, Newborn blue whales are twenty-three feet long and weigh about thirty tons, and they gain about two hundred pounds a day. When fully grown, they can be a hundred feet long and one hundred and sixty tons!
On land, the biggest baby is the African elephant. Newborns can weigh up to 270 pounds! Elephants also have the longest gestation period of all the mammals– a mother elephant is pregnant for twenty-two months before giving birth!
Photo by Derek Keats
Birds of prey include some of the biggest, fastest birds in the animal kingdom. Peregrine falcons dive at speeds over two hundred miles per hour (making them not just the world’s fastest birds, but also the world’s fastest animals overall), and bearded vultures, which are unique among animals for eating a diet that mostly consists of bone, have wingspans reaching up to nine feet. But other birds of prey are tiny and downright adorable, like the saw whet owl.
So what makes all these creatures birds of prey? There are a few key characteristics that all birds of prey share. They have excellent eyesight, strong feet for grasping prey, and sharp, curved beaks– all traits that make their fierce hunters. What birds of prey live near you?
Photo by Kameron Perensovich, Wikimedia Commons
You might be seeing baby birds in your neighborhood– robins learning to fly, ducklings in a line following their mother. But they’re not the only spring hatchlings– check out the bald eagles at the San Francisco Zoo! You can learn all kinds of fun facts about these amazing birds– for instance, an adult bald eagle’s wingspan is six feet, but they only weigh nine pounds– less than the average house cat! Their website even shows you where you can watch live video feeds of eagle nests. But hurry– eaglets learn to fly in June, so they won’t be in the nest for long!
They’re some of the most popular zoo animals– it’s fun to watch them swim and play. Their sleek bodies and whiskers are adorable. They’re… uh, seals? Or maybe sea lions? What’s the difference, anyway?
Seals and sea lions are relatives– they’re both members of the pinniped family, along with walruses. But while they have a lot in common, there are some key differences that you can use to tell them apart. Sea lions bark loudly, have visible ears, and can use their flippers to walk (or waddle) on land. Seals, on the other hand, are quieter, have small ears flush to their heads, and stick to the water. Can you tell which is which in this photo?
Photo via NOAA
Spring is in the air, and that means you’ll probably start seeing some new feathered friends back for the warmer weather! More than half of the bird species in North America are migratory, from big birds like geese and cranes to tiny hummingbirds.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are some of the most commonly seen hummingbirds in the US, and these tiny birds make a huge journey. They spend their winters in Mexico, and then come spring, they fly north as far as Canada! They’re solitary birds, so they don’t migrate in big flocks like geese– instead, they make the journey solo.
There are over a dozen species of hummingbirds in the US that migrate– visit your local nature center or zoo to learn more about the ones that live near you!
Photo by Matt Tillett
It’s in their very name– hummingbirds make a humming sound! In addition to making high-pitched, chirpy tweets, these birds beat their wings so rapidly that it produces a buzzing noise that almost sounds like a bumblebee. On the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum’s website, you can listen to the sounds of the metallic green Anna’s Hummingbird. These little creatures are only four inches long and weigh as little as a tenth of an ounce, but they still play an important role in their ecosystem– the Anna’s Hummingbird eats more insects than any other North American hummingbird!
The pterosaurs in the latest issue of Zoodinos can be a little alarming at first glance—some of them have forty-foot wingspans! Quetzalcoatlus is one the biggest pterosaurs yet discovered, and it’s huge. When it was first discovered, scientists thought that it used its long neck and spear-like beak to hunt fish, kind of like a stork does today. But lately, scientists have proposed that Quetzalcoatlus was a scavenger that fed on dinosaur carcasses. And while it could fly, it could likely walk around on land too, using its giant wings as forelimbs.
But while some of these flying reptiles might have been scary, others were downright cute. Take Bellubrunnus, for example. The first known fossil of this itsy-bitsy pterosaur’s had a wingspan of just one foot, and its skull was less than an inch long. It was a juvenile, and while scientists don’t know how big a fully-grown one would be, it would likely have a wingspan of around three feet—a far cry from the giant Quetzalcoatlus with its forty-foot wingspan.
Images by Mark Witton and Darren Naish and Matt Van Rooijen
Our readers drew some gorgeous hummingbirds for us this month! Do you have a favorite?
We always talk about how hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world, but what about the giant hummingbird? These birds are about as big, length-wise, as cardinals, though they’re a lot lighter! Their slender builds mean that these birds weigh less than an ounce, while cardinals can weigh up to 2.29 ounces. Giant hummingbirds still weigh ten times more than the tiniest hummingbirds, though.
Giant hummingbirds are found throughout the length of the Andes Mountains in South America, where they feed on flower nectar. It takes an incredible amount of energy to keep these “heavy” hummingbirds in the air, so they need to eat a lot!
Photo by Arturo Nahum