Week 9, Term Two, Year 7 students were fortunate to have Mark Culleton speak to the cohort about being a “birdman” and how he uses science with his line of work. Mark was joined on stage by his trusty assistant and daughter Lara (who is currently in Year 7) as well as “Twinkles” the Barn Owl.
Mark trains the performers for the “Birds of Prey” show at O’Reilly’s, Lamington National Park. We also found out that barn owls are moderately common in Australia being the most widespread and familiar of the owls. However, they are generally hard to see, as they are mostly nocturnal (active at night). Twinkles was definitely keen to not be seen as he took off behind the curtains of the stage in the Performing Arts Centre at times throughout the session.
Mark is extremely knowledgeable about the class of “Aves” and shared many interesting facts with us, including that Barn Owls are classified as medium sized birds (females slightly larger than males), with a 'heart-shaped' facial disc. Their skulls are approximately the size of a golf ball with their bodies being the size of a tennis ball. Their plumage is such that it allows them to have almost silent flight as predators of the night world. The slightest sound waves are channelled toward the ears, allowing the owl to pinpoint prey even in complete darkness. Despite a worldwide distribution, Barn Owls are declining in parts of their range due to habitat loss. Mark referred to times of “boom and bust” for his feathered friends in terms of food availability.
We really appreciated Mark, Lara and Twinkles giving this wonderful performance to us as well as sharing their passion for many of Australia’s magnificent birds.
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