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A Study of the Magpie

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle High SchoolSecondary

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy
Numeracy
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Numeracy

Cooperative LearningCooperative Learning Activity

 

1. In groups of 3 - 4 students, you are to conduct an Internet Research Assignment about the Australian Magpie as well as observing Magpies in your local area, if you are lucky to have some birds.

Your group is to present their findings to the class in a 5minute presentation.

Remember to state facts and figures and graph your findings.

2. Here are some articles to help you with your research project:

The Conversation 13 March 2024 Read

The Conversation

The Conversation 22 February 2022 Read

The Conversation

ABC News 2 October 2019 Read

ABC News

Australian Museum - Australian Magpie Read

Australian Museum

 

Featherbase - Australian Magpie Read

Featherbase Magpie

The Conversation 3 October 2017 Read

The Conversation


Other resources to use (if required):

* Birdlife Australia - Australian Magpie

* eBird - Australian Magpie

* Magpie Aholic - the magpie whisperer

 

3. Add to your Internet research by observing Magpies in

  • your school yard

  • your backyard

Take photos of the Magpies you have observed.

What did you discover from your observations?

 4.

 Brainstorm

Brainstorm how you are going to present your research to the class.

5. Try one of these methods of presenting....click here.

 

 

 

Feather Identification - Forensic Ornithology (Created by Dr. Carla Dove, Smithsonian Institution)

 MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary
CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

NumeracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Numeracy

 

The Bird Detective
  

TeacherTeacher

Target Group: This lesson was created for middle school students but could also be used for students in Years 10 - 12 studying Biology, Ecology or Forensic Science.

This activity could be modified for students in Years 5 - 6 - which straight observation of the feather.

Local Copy: The following is a local copy of Forensic Ornithology (9 pages PDF).

This contains

  • an introduction,
  • student worksheet [Case Studies 1 & 2),
  • Resources required, and
  • the Lesson Plan.

You will need to read all of this document before the lesson.

There is an introductory lesson on feathers first. Then you will need to teach the students about microslide preparation (if they do not know this already).

 

LEARNING OBJECTIVES
The student will:
· learn feather topography and micro-structure
· prepare microslides of downy barbs
· examine microscopic variation in downy feather characters
· illustrate microscopic feather characters of different species
· use deductive reasoning, circumstantial clues, and physical evidence to solve cases
· experience Ahands-on@ practical applications of the feather identification technique

MATERIALS
Compound light microscope with low (40X) and high (200X-400X) objectives
microslides and labels
coverslips (22mm sq., or 22 x 50 mm)
forceps (fine-tipped for removing single barbs)
tap water (in dropping bottle with stopper/pipet)
specimens - 2 breast feathers per student of each species selected for study
unknown samples - 2 unknown feather samples per student. Samples are selected by the instructor and could be different for each student. The unknown samples can be whole feathers but several downy barbs will suffice.

 

Case #1
    
A Fish and Wildlife agent arrested a suspect for poaching ducks out of season. The agent’s only hard evidence (non-circumstantial) was a knife that he found in the suspect’s boat. The knife had fresh blood and a small piece of downy feather attached to the blade. Although the suspect admitted that the knife was hers, she denied poaching and claimed that she was not a duck hunter. The agent confiscated the knife, removed the feather evidence and sent the feather samples to your lab for identification.

Remove the unknown down sample from a plastic bag and make a microslide. Examine the fluffy downy barbs and barbules for specific characters noted in the illustration part of this lab.

Questions: Assuming that all Anseriformes (the avian order that includes ducks, geese and swans) have similar structures to those illustrated previously in this exercise, can we determine whether or not the feather sample belongs to a species within this avian order?
   
What microcharacters can be used to support or refute your analysis? Does your analysis help prove that the suspect is innocent? Why or why not?


Suggestion for Case 1 is to collect different duck feathers and those of water birds. Check the following resources to see the type of bird.

Australian Ducks - Australia's Wonderful Birds https://www.australiaswonderfulbirds.com.au/ducks
  
https://www.australiaswonderfulbirds.com.au/water-birds

Australian Ducks
(Source: RSPCA)

Case #2

Before your students start on Case #2, get them to watch this Australian video about Wildlife Strikes : https://youtu.be/_JV-pv6W9gw


Scenario

"On Thanksgiving day, a Boeing 727 Aircraft experienced engine trouble shortly after takeoff at JFK Airport in New York. The plane aborted takeoff and landed safely without incident but upon inspection of the engine, considerable physical damage was noted and many fragmentary pieces of fuzz and debris were found attached to the bent fan blades. The investigators suspected that a bird was ingested into the engine and caused the engine to shutdown. The debris was sent to you for bird strike confirmation."

  • Remove the bits and pieces of debris and dirt from the bag and search for any type of feather evidence.



Prepare a microslide and examine the debris.

Questions: Is there feather in the sample? If so, can we determine to what group of birds the feather belongs?
  
Considering all of the circumstantial evidence (and use of Bird Field Guides if necessary), what are the possible species that could have been involved in this bird strike? What could the airport managers do to prevent this type of accident from happening again?

 

British Airways
A survey held by ICAO including data from 91 countries found out that airlines face an average of 34 bird strikes in a day. The damage, if translated to money amounts to more than $1 Billion annually.
  
Most of the modern engines are required to be capable of ingesting birds that weigh about 1.8-kilo while running at full power. They are required to do it within the initial climb speed without catching fire or making the engine impossible to shut down. In addition to this, it is also required to operate at atleast 50 percent power for upto 14 minutes after the strike. This means that even if both the engines are hit by large birds, it can provide a combined thrust output of at least one engine which is more than enough to return to the airport.

Now there are a couple of solutions that might seem obvious. A mesh, for instance, sounds like the cheapest solution against the bird strike problem. However, a mesh at the intake end also poses a major risk. At high velocity, a 1.8-kilo bird hitting the intake amounts to 3,50,000N which would damage the mesh and pose a greater risk of entering the engine.

Among the solutions that worked against the bird strike problem was a study from Perdue University which found out that planes painted in dark colours attract more birds, and hence increasing the chances of a bird strike. The contrasting brighter shade fuselages blend with the sky and help the bird avoid the plane.

Adding to the list of solutions is also a study that was held by Japanese carrier ANA which found out that planes with eyes drawn at the jet engine spinners could be an efficient way to scare off birds. For this purpose, 26 of the Boeing aircraft in the carrier’s fleet carried patterns on the engine. Surprisingly, the method worked. A plane with the pattern reported just one bird strike as against the 9 which hit the conventional one in the same time period.

(Source: News18)

 

Investigation

Students

1. You have two cases to solve regarding Forensic Ornithology.

Firstly for Case 1: You will be given a feather. You are to examine the feather by:

  • measuring the feather

  • taking a photo with a ruler longside it to get the relative size

  • describing the feather in terms of colour, shape, gradient of shape, unique characteristics

  • drawing the feather to scale

  • creating a microslide of this feather.

Remember, as a Forensic Ornithologist, you have to report your findings to a court if necessary.

Put all the details you have discovered into a digital folder.

 

2. Microslide Preparation:
    
Obtain feather samples of different species from lab instructor. In order to avoid contamination of feather types work with only one species or unknown sample at a time. Label the microslide, place it on a clean surface and put a few drops of water on the slide so that most of the microslide is covered with a thin aqueous layer. Using the forceps, remove downy barbs from the base of the whole feather of one species and gently lay four or five barbs onto the water.

Water will allow the barbules to spread evenly. The most diagnostic barbs are usually found near the mid-section of the downy area of the feather. Gently place a coverslip on the microslide.


3. View under a compound light microscope. Illustrate what you see.

4. Use deductive reasoning to answer the questions for Case 1.

5. You might want to check with the Featherbase. They have Australian feathers listed.

Featherbase

 

 

6. Case 2.

Before you start, look at the following video and note down any interesting things you didn't know before. Also read the articles from The Conversation.

Wildlife Strikes and DNA Sampling: A How-To Guide for the Aviation Industry (12.45 mins)
https://youtu.be/_JV-pv6W9gw

 

Also, read the following from The Conversation 25 September 2017

The Conversation

 

The Conversation 25 May 2018

The Conversation

 

7. You will be allocated a bag with debris from a wildlife strike with a plane. Remove the bits and pieces of debris and dirt from the bag and search for any type of feather evidence.

You are to examine the debris by:

  • measuring any objects including feathers and describing them.

  • taking a photo with a ruler longside the objects to get the relative size

  • describe the debris including any feathers in terms of colour, shape, gradient of shape, unique characteristics

  • draw the feathers and other debris to scale

  • prepare a microslide of any feathers. Remember to label and photograph

Remember, as a Forensic Ornithologist, you have to report your findings to a court if necessary.

Put all the details you have discovered into a digital folder.



8. After examining, answer the following questions:

  • Is there feather in the sample? If so, can we determine to what group of birds the feather belongs?

  • Considering all of the circumstantial evidence (and use of Bird Field Guides if necessary) what are the possible species that could have been involved in this bird strike? What could the airport managers do to prevent this type of accident from happening again?

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