A Distinguished Visitor

This morning, a red-tailed hawk perched outside the library window. The elementary children were so delighted. We stood outside and watched for some time before it flew off across the green space at the back of the school. A few of the children in Upper Elementary are amateur enthusiasts so they immediately set to work detailing what they know about the characteristics and habits of red tailed hawks. We’ve been studying taxonomy so they were charged with decoding the classification of the hawk. This put their knowledge of the species into context. Here is the result of the discussion we had:


Kingdom Animalia ….When asked to define it, they stared back in silence. Finally one spoke up to say “um not monera, plantae, fungi, archaeobacteria or what’s the other one, ah, two”?

Phylum Chordata…”That’s easy, it means it has a backbone”

Class Aves….”Birds!” several shouted at once without raising their hands.

Order Accipitriformes….”That means hawk in Latin” said one grade six student, checking her Latin dictionary to confirm. It does mean hawk in Latin it turns out but the classification also includes other diurnal birds of prey.

Family Accipitridae… This presented an opportunity for investigation so we hypothesized that it related either to wing shape or beak. It was the later (hooked beak) and also their morphology based on diet.

Genus Buteo…Finally, they were stumped so we looked it up. They learned birds of this genus are robust raptors with large wings and a particular stroke to their flight pattern.

Species B. jamaicensis ....Here is where we will go now in our investigations. We will diagram the bird we saw in watercolour from the reference photos we took and look at the characteristics and habitats of the red tailed hawk and their significance in mythology. 

Really, they amazed me today…both the hawk and the children.

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