One of the most fascinating aspects of wildlife study is the adaptations for survival. Every creature has some unique features which help it to survive in its way of life. Even if students are not familiar with the term, they already know great examples of adaptations. The skunk can spray, the porcupine has quills and the ducks have webbed feet. Our programs stress the fascinating adaptations of the animals we present. The adaptations of the animals that we are currently using are listed below.
HAWK- The hawk has great eyesight for seeing its prey. Its powerful feet with sharp talons enable it to catch and kill its prey. A sharp curved beak is used for ripping its prey into smaller pieces.
VULTURE- The vulture's adaptations revolve around cleanliness since it feeds on dead or decaying carcasses. It has a bare head so that there are no feathers to become soiled when it puts its head in carcasses. It defecates on its legs which kills germs which accumulate there from standing on dead carcasses. It has large nostrils that won't get clogged up when its head is in a carcass. It regurgitates when frightened for self-defense.
OWL- The owl has soft, fluffy feathers that enable it to have silent flight. Its large specialized eyes enable it to see at night. It has powerful feet and a sharp, curved beak like the hawk. It coughs up indigestible material such as fur and bone in the form of a pellet.
FALCON- The falcon is streamlined and built for speed. It has pointed swept-back wings like a small jet plane. The long toes and needle-sharp talons are for snatching birds out of the air. A dark line under each eye to prevent sun glare in a 200 mph dive.
ALLIGATOR- The alligatorís jaws are filled with needle-sharp teeth for catching prey. It has a powerful tail to help in lunging for its prey. Its eyes can be pulled into its head and a hard scale covers them to protect them during battle. The eyes and nose stick up above the water while its body is camouflaged under the water.
LEGLESS LIZARD- This lizard has a long tail that can snap off if a predator grabs it. It has a body that resembles a snake to enable it enter small tunnels where it feeds on baby mice. Its specialized tongue enables it to smell prey in the darkness.
ALLIGATOR SNAPPING TURTLE- This turtle has a specialized tongue that resembles a worm for attracting prey into its mouth. The ribs are modified into a protective shell. It has the ability to hold its breath under water for long periods of time (all winter long during hibernation)
SNAKE- Like the lizard, the snake has a specialized tongue for smelling food. The muscular body helps it to constrict and kill its prey. It has the ability to separate its jaws and stretch its skin, so it can swallow prey whole.
Certain vocabulary words are used during the program which may be new for some students. These words are explained during the program, but it might be useful to review them. Since the programs are always adapted to the age level of the audience, some of these words may not always be used.
1.- CROP- An elastic sac in the neck of some raptors for storing extra food
2.- ENDANGERED SPECIES- Any plant or animal who's numbers are declining to a dangerous level. There is a Federal endangered species list as well as a state endangered species list. The peregrine falcon have been removed from the Federal endangered species list.
3.- FALCONRY- The ancient sport of hunting with a trained bird of prey
4.- HABITAT-The type of environment that a species selects to live in. The habitat of a peregrine falcon is out in the open on a cliff.
5.- HIBERNATION- Some animals remain in a dormant state over the winter. Snapping turtles hibernate at the bottom of lakes and ponds.
6.- IMPRINTING- When a baby bird is raised by people, it assumes the humans are its real parents. These birds are very tame. Some of the birds used in our programs are imprinted birds.
7.- INSECTICIDE- A poison to kill insects. Years ago we used dangerous insecticides (such as DDT), which was responsible for the decline of peregrine falcon populations. These dangerous poisons are now banned by the Federal government.
8.- JESSES- The leather straps on the hawks legs which we hold onto in case the bird tries to fly when we don't want it to.
9.- LURE- A lure is something that attracts an animal. The alligator snapping turtle uses its pink, worm-like tongue as a lure to attract fish to its mouth.
10.- MOBBING- The behavior of crows and other birds when they discover a predator like an owl. They fly over the owl's head while screaming and diving at it.
11.- NOCTURNAL- Creatures that active at night.
12.- PREDATOR- Any creature that hunts and catches prey in order to survive.
13.- PREY- The animal being hunted by the predator
14.- TALONS- The strong sharp claws on the toes of a bird of prey
15.- SCAVENGER- An animal such as the vulture that feeds on dead animals that it finds.