Youngsters got to be serious bird watchers for the day — on the lookout for flying hawks and falcons — during the Parks Department’s Birds of Prey event at the Salt Marsh Nature Center in Marine Park on Feb. 23.
Rangers taught kids what to look for, how to identify an avian predator, and how to dissect an owl’s regurgitated pellets to see the bones of their prey, said ranger Erinn White.
“When they hunt either small birds or rodents, they can’t digest the bones or hair so they regurgitate a pellet, so if you dissect it you can pull it apart and figure out what the owl has been eating,” said White. “The kids really enjoyed that.”
White instructed the kids about the key characteristics of birds of prey, such as sharp claws called talons, and a sharp, curved beak — perfect for hunting, she said.
“That’s sharp also to catch prey to cut it up,” said White.
Many birds of prey, including falcons, hawks, osprey, and eagles, flock to Marine Park and the surrounding area. Each species usually hunts something different, such as insects, mice, small birds, fish, rats, and even squirrels, said White.
White took the kids through the nature center on a birdwatching walk, where they spotted the smallest falcon in North America, called the American Kestrel, which eats mostly insects and sometimes small rodents, she said.
And the kids loved getting their hands dirty actually sifting through the owl’s pellets for bones, said mom Lisha Louz from Gravesend, who brought her 6-year-old son Eliyahu.
“It was nice. He learned a lot about birds and dissecting owl pellets. I think it’s great, I wish they had these events every day. They learn a whole bunch and it’s really nice to be outdoors,” she said. “The rangers did a good job.”