Peru students learn about owls in after-school program


PERU — Dirigo Elementary School students carefully studied three owls Chewonki instructor Jessica Woodend showed at an after-school program Wednesday.

One was tiny, 7-year-old Huntington, a rust and white-colored screech owl. One was medium-sized, 25-year-old Byron, a barred owl known for calling ‘who cooks for you.’ The third was large, 29-year-old Olivia, a giant horned owl.

Each sat quietly on Woodend’s leather-gloved hand.

Byron was accidentally shot, resulting in the loss of one wing. Olivia suffered a broken wing and cannot fly; and Huntington severely injured his feet in a fence in New York so he can’t perch or hunt for food. Because they had been injured, they could not be returned to the wild.

The showing was an activity of Lights On, a national after-school program. The theme was owls, so bringing the feathered creatures to meet the children was appropriate, Western Foothills Kids Association Director Barbara Radmore said.

Woodend taught students about owls and warned them not to pick up an injured bird, but to ask someone to wear gloves to pick it up to be cared for.

“Screech owls visit Maine once in while,” Woodend said, while the other two are regular residents of the state.

Because screech owls are so small, they are often food for other predators. Woodend said they frequently communicate with each other with their eyes so they won’t get eaten.

Children asked questions about the habits of owls, such as their diet of small rodents and snakes. The larger owls such as Olivia can capture rabbits and other larger animals.

While Woodend was introducing the owls in the cafeteria, other children were playing bird-related games such as duck, duck, goose in a classroom.

Chewonki is an environmental education organization based in Wiscasset that teaches appreciation and stewardship of the natural world and challenges people to build thriving, sustainable communities throughout their lives.