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Turn that Radio Down! Tracking the Busy Life of Flammulated Owl Dads

This article is from Issue Olympic Winter Games - Vol. 2 No. 2.

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When pairs of Flammulated owls get ready to reproduce, they must find a place to build their nest. They need a location convenient to a food supply suitable for baby Flammulated owls. The scientists wanted to know what kind of habitat Flammulated owls prefer to use when raising their young. 

Welcome to the Olympic Winter Games edition

Note to Educators

Education Standards Correlations


Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Earth Science
  • Life Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Importance of Forest to People (Students)
  • Protecting Trees and Other Plants (Students)
  • The Value of Forests and Grasslands (Educators)
  • Wildlife and Endangered Species (Educators)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Rocky Mountain

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
The development of technology has been helpful to scientists who want to study animals that live in the wild. By using technology, scientists can learn about these animals without harming or interfering with the animals'normal behavior and movements. The scientists in this study used radiotelemetry to study the behavior and movements of Flammulated (fla mu la ted) owl fathers. Radiotelemetry involves attaching a small electronic transmitter to the animal. The device sends out a signal that is detected by an electronic receiver. The scientist can then identify the location of the animal, even as the animal moves from place to place in its habitat. It is important not to disturb wildlife even when we are trying to learn more about it. Technology helps scientists to do this.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists
  • The Scientific Process

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Flammulated owls make their nests and raise their young in old conifer forests (Figure 1). Old forests are forests whose trees have not been cut down or disturbed for hundreds of years. In addition to large living trees, old forests have large numbers of standing dead trees. These dead trees, or snags, are preferred by owls because they can make their nests in the dead trees'cavities (Figure 2). These cavities are usually created by woodpeckers. The needles, limbs, and trunks of old conifers are good places to find insects and spiders, which male Flammulated owls feed to their young. Old forests, as opposed to forests composed of younger trees, are better suited to the needs of mother and father Flammulated owls. Without old forests to live in, Flammulated owls would have a hard time finding enough food to feed their young. Old forests need small fires that burn naturally on a periodic basis. When these small fires burn, they keep small brush and young trees from growing too big to compete with the older trees. You can see that there is a relationship between small, naturally occurring forest fires and Flammulated owl babies!
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Effect of natural disaster on living things

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Natural hazards (F)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Populations and ecosystems (C)
  • Populations, resources and environments (F)
  • Reproduction and heredity (C)
  • Science and technology in society (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Understandings about science and technology (E)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • Historic Perspectives: Explaining the Diversity of Life
  • Historic Perspectives: Understanding Fire
  • The Living Environment: Diversity of Life
  • The Living Environment: Evolution of Life
  • The Living Environment: Interdependence of Life
  • The Nature of Science: Scientific Inquiry
  • The Nature of Science: The Scientific Enterprise
  • The Nature of Technology: Issues in Technology
  • The Nature of Technology: Technology and Science