The Secret Life of Birds

Katie the Museum Intern tells us about the Family Learning Event on the 28th October …


Do you know how to distinguish between a falcon and a hawk?  Or what an owl pellet is? Families were let in on these secrets and much more as we introduced them to the Secret Life of Birds at our October Family Learning Event. 

An array of falcons, hawks and owls awaited the visitors in the talks given by Alan Greenhalgh and his team from First Class Falconry. Children and adults took turns holding and flying the hawks and smaller owls. Harrier Hawks were allowed to fly free in the courtyard; they perched on the surrounding buildings, looking like some of the stone carvings that had come to life!  

"Never work with animals or children.."


So how do you tell a hawk from a falcon? Falcon wings come to sharp points that form a diamond shape, whereas hawks have a more rounded wing. Most falcons also have a small notch or tooth on the upper part of their beak, which they use to kill their prey in flight.

Visitors explored the museum seeking out clues to a bird trail hidden throughout the display cases. Children painted and camouflaged their own bird eggs and got stuck into dissecting Owl pellets (not real ones).


Bird eggs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can learn more about them from Newall egg collection on display in the Museum.


If you don’t know what an owl pellet is: they are masses of undigested food that owls regurgitate from their stomach. Because owls swallow their prey whole and cannot digest bones, each pellet contains almost the entire skeleton of whatever the owl has eaten. Children were able to learn about the bones of the animals that make up an owl’s diet as they rebuilt the skeletons. 

Owl pellet dissection taking place. Here's one I made earlier...

I can’t tell you how excited I was in the run up to this event and the day certainly didn’t disappoint! I think the way that children and adults are looked after at every stage of the day really makes these Family Learning Events special. Once again, this event was made possible by the fantastic team of the Clewer Cluster Extended Schools Programme. Our thanks also to the volunteers from Royal Holloway University and their invaluable assistance!

You can have a go at the bird trail on any Sunday that the Museum is open by downloading the worksheet from the learning section of the website.