To help students further understand the predator/prey relationship by researching specific examples of birds (predators) and what they eat to survive (prey).
Middle-school students have been introduced to the concept that animals eat other animals and plants to survive. They now have to examine these complex relationships more in-depth, as well as begin to understand them in the context of their own environment.
In this lesson, students will research several birds of prey and examine predator/prey relationships. The suggested reading and research questions should help students' understanding of these topics move forward, and may lead into a discussion of food chains and webs as well.
To elicit student ideas about the lesson topic, ask these questions:
- Have you ever seen an eagle or a falcon? Where?
- What do you think they eat?
- How do you think they capture their prey?
- What special adaptations do you think they need to hunt their prey?
- What other birds come to mind when you hear "birds of prey"?
- What do you think the difference is between a bird of prey and a scavenger?
Make a list of key words or ideas about predator/prey relationships on a chalkboard, chart, or an overhead as the discussion progresses. Tell students they will be given the opportunity to research some birds of prey and learn more about animals needing other animals to survive.
In this part of the lesson, students will conduct independent research on the Internet to develop a better understanding of predator/prey relationships.
Students will research these birds:
- Golden Eagle
- Great Horned Owl
- Broad-winged Hawk
- Peregrine Falcon
Using the Birds of Prey student esheet, students will be directed to one or both of these websites to conduct their research:
As they're doing their research, have students complete the Birds of Prey student sheet.
Discuss the research results in class, and ask the following questions to help students analyze predator/prey relationships in their own environments:
- What did each of the birds of prey have in common?
- Which bird of prey do you think would have the most difficult time adapting to our neighborhood? Why?
- What types of prey are living in our neighborhood?
- Can you think of other predator/prey relationships in our ecosystem?
To assess students' understanding of predator/prey relationships, ask students to write a short response to this question:
- What do the birds of prey have in common? (Students should be sure to include specific examples based on the research information.)
To help students get started, ask them questions such as:
- What physical adaptations have helped the bird of prey survive?
- What helps the bird capture its prey?
- When is the best time to hunt the prey?
- Why is the nest important for survival?
The Science NetLinks lesson Owls: Top of a Food Chain extends the ideas in this lesson.
You can also extend this lesson by using ideas from the Science NetLinks lesson entitled Burrowing Owls. Though intended for high-school students, this lesson includes suggestions that can make it appropriate for use with students at the 6-8 level.
The video, Birds of Prey, from National Geographic, is an excellent extension to this lesson. This video is available at most video stores or the library.