Did You Know? (Owl and Snake Edition)

Eastern Screech Owls will keep blind snakes in their nests to ‘babysit’ while parents are away gathering food?

The owls in these nests with snakes seem to be healthier than owls from non-snake nests; it is believed this is because the snakes eat insects in the nest that may harm the babies. I found this information on page 88 of North American Owls by Paul A. Johnsgard. What a highly detailed book! It tells about the many different kinds of owls, their sizes, territories, nesting habits, where to find them and on and on.

There are two families of blind snakes: the Leptotyphlops with about 80 species that have teeth only on the lower jaw and have un-toothed maxillary bones fused solidly to their head, and the Typhlopidae with maxillary bones that are toothed and not fused to the skull with about 160 species. I doubt the owls care which of the families of snakes they have. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Western North America by R. D. Bartlett and Patricia P. Bartlett has pictures of many of these blind snakes. They spend most of their time underground and look remarkably like worms.

This type of mutually beneficial interaction is called a symbiotic relationship. There are many types of these relationships. Mycorrhizal Planet by Michael Phillips tells how plants have photosynthate sugars to offer mycorrhizal fungi, which can’t access carbon. The fungi in turn assists the plant by facilitating the uptake of mineral nutrients and water.

Weird Friends: Unlikely Allies in the Animal Kingdom by Jose Aruego and Arianne Dewey is an excellent book for children explaining symbiosis and has many examples of different animals helping each other. Natural Attraction: a Field Guide to Friends, Frenemies, and Other Symbiotic Animal Relationships by Iris Gottlieb goes one step further and shows not only symbiosis, but parasitism and commensalism as well. This book has nice pictures of animal pairs along with explanations of who is gaining what in each relationship.

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear is not about a symbiotic relationship, but true love! They sail away together and get married on a tropical beach. It was originally published in 1871. It is truly an example of how love stories never go out of style. We have many other book series with pairs of animals. A few of them are The Elephant and Piggy books, Hondo and Fabian and Frog and Toad series. While symbiosis is a mutual benefit, friendship is probably the best benefit anyone can ever have!

Who Knew?

You may have seen this wonderful viral picture on social media about owls and their long legs. Who knew that’s what was under all those feathers! There are so many things to learn about owls. Did you know that in the Harry Potter series, Harry’s owl Hedwig is a female Snowy Owl. All the owls that played her part in the movies were male.

From the book Snowy Owl Invasion, I learned about a 2013 Snowy Owl irruption, a sudden increase in an animal’s population. Due to the larger number of owls in unusual places, scientists studying these owls found that they flew faster, higher, and further than they thought possible. Sounds like the perfect mail carrying owl for Harry Potter!

Below I have included a list of fantastic owl books, including the non-fiction book Snowy Owl Invasion, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Through the end of May, Pottermore Publishing and Overdrive has given libraries unlimited access to Book 1 in the Harry Potter Series, in downloadable book and audio versions! All book descriptions are taken from the library’s catalog.

Picture Books

Hoot and Peep by Lita Judge
In the night skies above Paris, an adorable young owl teaches her older brother about the power of imagination—and the unconditional love between siblings 

Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan
It’s evening in the forest and Little Owl wakes up from his day-long sleep to watch his friends enjoying the night. Hedgehog sniffs for mushrooms, Skunk nibbles at berries, Frog croaks, and Cricket sings. A full moon rises and Little Owl can’t understand why anyone would want to miss it. Could the daytime be nearly as wonderful? Mama Owl begins to describe it to him, but as the sun comes up, Little Owl falls fast asleep.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
Features an audio read-along! When three baby owls awake one night to find their mother gone, they can’t help but wonder where she is. Stunning illustrations capture the owls as they worry about their mother: What is she doing? When will she be back? Not surprisingly, a joyous flapping and dancing and bouncing greets her return, lending a celebratory tone to the ending of this comforting tale.

Beginning Readers

Rocket Writes a Story a Story by Tad Hills
Rocket loves books and he wants to make his own, but he can’t think of a story. Encouraged by the little yellow bird to look closely at the world around him for inspiration, Rocket sets out on a journey. Along the way he discovers small details that he has never noticed before, a timid baby owl who becomes his friend, and an idea for a story.

National Geographic Readers: Owls by Laura Marsh
In this level 1 reader, young readers will explore the feathery world of adorable owls. Follow these curious-looking creatures through their wooded habitats, and learn how owls raise their young, hunt, and protect themselves. Beautiful photos and carefully leveled text make this book perfect for reading aloud or for independent reading.

Favorite Stories from Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman
It’s springtime on the ranch. Cowgirl Kate is excited about the arrival of all the baby animals: a newborn calf, a frisky puppy, and a nest of little barn owls. Her best friend Cocoa the horse is not so excited. Babies are a lot of work! But they are also sweet, as Cocoa and beginning readers will discover in this delightful addition to Green Light Readers. Short sentences and simple dialogue keep newly independent readers engaged and confident.

Beginning Chapter Book

Owl Diaries by Rebecca Elliot
Eva Wingdale gets in over her head when she offers to organize a spring festival at school. Even with her best friend Lucy’s help, there is NO way she will get everything done in time. Will Eva have to ask Sue (a.k.a. Meanie McMeanerson) for help? Or will the festival have to be cancelled? This book is written as Eva’s diary — with Rebecca Elliott’s owl-dorable full-color illustrations throughout!

Juvenile Non-Fiction

Origami Papertainment: Samurai, Owls, Ninja Stars, and More! By Christopher Harbo
From samurai and owls to ninja stars and dragonflies, exciting traditional and original paper folding projects await young origami artists. Organized from easy to challenging, each project includes clear, step by step, photo illustrated instructions that make developing paper folding skills fun. All projects also include creative tips for using and displaying models to impress friends and family.

Snowy Owl Invasion! Tracking an Unusual Migration by Sandra Markle
Late in 2013, snowy owls started showing up in places no one expected to find them—including Florida. What had caused so many of these majestic birds to leave their Arctic home and fly to southern Canada and the United States? Scientists quickly began working to find out. Author Sandra Markle brings together firsthand reports from the scientists involved along with stunning photographs of the owls to explain this rare event, known as an irruption. Follow along as scientists figure out why snowy owls took part in this unusual migration and discover what they learned from the unexpected opportunity to study them up close.

Middle Grade Fiction

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Roy, who is new to his small Florida community, becomes involved in another boy’s attempt to save a colony of burrowing owls from a proposed construction site. Unfortunately, Roy’s first acquaintance in Florida is Dana Matherson, a well-known bully. Then again, if Dana hadn’t been sinking his thumbs into Roy’s temples and mashing his face against the school-bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. And the running boy is intriguing: he was running away from the school bus, carried no books, and–here’s the odd part–wore no shoes. Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy’s trail. The chase introduces him to potty-trained alligators, a fake-fart champion, some burrowing owls, a renegade eco-avenger, and several extremely poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.