From Cool Operators Cynthia Berger

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Honors Study Guide Semester Two
Multiple Choice

Identify the choice that best completes the statement or answers the question.
Reading Comprehension

Directions Read the following selections. Then answer the questions that follow.
from Cool Operators

Cynthia Berger
Driving forest roads in winter, Manitoba biologist Jim Duncan will often

spot a great gray owl sitting motionless in a roadside tree, staring at the ground with

round, yellow eyes. "You look where the owl is looking," says Duncan, manager of biodiversity conservation with Canada's Manitoba Wildlife Branch, "and all you see

is a blanket of snow." Yet suddenly the bird launches from its perch, folds its wings

and plunges headfirst toward the ground. "You think it's committing suicide," he


Snow plunging looks like a desperate act, but it's the opposite of

suicidal—it's how great gray owls make a living in the icy north. These owls—the

10 largest in North America, reaching 33 inches in length-are diving after small

rodents, mostly meadow voles that hunker in burrows beneath the snow.

Great grays aren't the only owls that hunt prey like kamikaze pilots. Joining

them in their maneuvers are northern hawk owls and boreal owls, which share the

great gray's boreal-forest range in northern Canada and Alaska and sometimes the high-elevation conifer forests of the American Rockies, Cascades and Sierras, and

snowy owls, which live farther north above the Arctic Circle on the treeless tundra.

These owls share several other adaptations to their extreme environment,

such as fluffy feathers that extend over vulnerable ankles and toes in subzero weather

and plumage that makes them immune to the cold. The snowy's outermost feathers,

20 for example, are unusually stiff. Experts speculate that they function like a nylon

jacket over polar fleece, blocking the tundra wind. "You've got to be impressed

when you see a snowy owl sitting 100 feet up on a metal hydropole in a wind chill of

60 below," says Duncan. "If you left your car without a coat in that weather, your

skin would freeze in less than a minute. This bird just sits up there, looking happy as

a lark."

But the adaptation that most excites bird-watchers is when these owls start

showing up in unexpected places. Scientists call these mass movements to the south

irruptions because-unlike long-eared and short-eared owls, which breed in some of

the same regions-these owls don't migrate. Irruptions happen periodically, perhaps

30 once every three to five years, most likely prompted by food shortages.

As dietary specialists, all four species of Arctic owls favor a particular prey

species. Great grays and northern hawk owls prefer meadow voles, boreals focus on red-backed voles, and snowies primarily eat lemmings. "When the meadow vole

population crashes every three to five years," says Duncan, "there are still plenty of

other prey a great gray could take—thousands of red-backed voles, grouse,

hare—but for some reason these birds are not wired to take them."

They are not like great horned owls, for example, which also inhabit—and

stay put in-the great white north because they can dine on some 200 different prey

species. Boreal and northern hawk owls do catch and stash extra dead rodents in

40 handy tree crotches to eat later, when pickings are slim-the birds sit on frozen

carcasses to thaw them first. But when things get desperate they head south in search

of food.

Records of owl wanderings southward date back to 1831, when John James

Audubon hurried to Marblehead, Massachusetts, hoping to see an errant great gray. (Unfortunately for the famous artist and naturalist, the owl died before he arrived.)

During irruption years, snowy owls have been sighted as far south as North Carolina

and Utah. During the irruption of 1986-87 observers counted 23 snowies in a single

day at Boston's Logan Airport. In the great gray owl irruption of 2001, birders in

southeastern Manitoba spotted more than 100 in a single day.

50 Given that northern owl populations naturally experience large fluctuations

in size, it's hard for wildlife managers to determine whether species are stable or


To further complicate matters, the main source of data on North American

bird population trends, the volunteer-based Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)-a

collaboration between U.S. Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife

Service-collects almost no data on northern owls. Relatively few humans, much

less willing volunteers, live in the Canadian regions where these owls breed.

In the United States, data on northern owl populations are being collected

through the survey and management program of the Bureau of Land Management's

60 (BLM) Northwest Forest Plan, which requires land managers to assess potential

impacts on rare and sensitive species whenever timber sales are proposed in old-

growth forests. In May 2003, however, the Forest Service and BLM proposed

eliminating some of the survey requirements. At presstime a decision was still


With scientists unable to get a fix on owl numbers, conservationists worry

that loss of habitat-whether from natural disasters or human actions such as

logging-could seriously harm owls without anyone noticing.

"Great grays often nest in the tops of dead snags, so they require fairly good-sized trees," says Priestley. Boreal owls nest in cavities excavated by pileated woodpeckers and northern flickers and also require big, old trees. The problem is that big trees also attract timber companies. A recent report published in Conservation Ecology predicted that most of the old-growth boreal forest in western Canada will be completely gone by 2065 if logging and drilling for oil and natural gas continue at current rates.

"Cool Operators" by Cynthia Berger. Reprinted with permission from the February/March 2004 issue of National Wildlife magazine. Copyright 2004 by the National Wildlife Federation.
____ 1. Based on lines 3-11, you can infer that great gray owls


have a keen sense of sight


use snow banks to cool off


have difficulty finding food


use burrows to escape the cold

____ 2. Monitor your understanding of lines 17-21. Great grays are protected in harsh weather because they have


large nests made of twigs and bark


fluffy feathers that protect their ankles


highly developed immune systems


special diets that build layers of fat

____ 3. What key idea from lines 26-30 contributes to the main idea of the selection?


Birdwatchers enjoy witnessing the adaptations of many owls.


Irruption is another name for the sudden dive an owl makes to get food.


Long- and short-eared owls often show up in unexpected places.


Some types of northern owls move south when food is unavailable.

____ 4. According to the article, one cause of the loss of owl habitats is


global warming


predatory birds





____ 5. Berger most likely included the map to provide information about the


reason so few owls live in the U.S.


distance owls must fly to find Food


portion of boreal forest in the U.S.


vast extent of the owls' habitat

____ 6. Based on the article and the map, you can tell that biologist Jim Duncan


lives close to a boreal forest


studies birds in northern Alaska


spends most of his time in Quebec


works for a U.S. timber company

____ 7. Based on the map and the article, you can tell that the boreal forest


is almost entirely gone in parts of northern Ontario


lies south of the areas in which timber companies are logging


covers much of Canada and contains many old-growth trees


is growing in size in Quebec because of decreased oil drilling

____ 8. Based on the article, you can draw the conclusion that Berger


enjoys world travel


writes about many types of animals


is concerned about the owl population


keeps mostly to herself

____ 9. Based on the article and the map, you can tell that boreal forests are


mostly stable in Nunavut


dwindling in British Columbia


supported by Canadian tourists


shifting to northern California

Comprehension__Directions'>Reading Comprehension

Directions Read the following selections. Then answer the questions that follow.
from Owls Aren't Wise and Bats Aren't Blind

Warner Shedd
Snowy owls evolved as hunters on the vast, barren Arctic tundra, where they

prefer to perch on the highest point around and wait until they spot their prey—then

glide down to seize their victims by stealth. Thus, when they visit southern Canada

and the United States, the big predators favor wide-open spaces (airfields such as

Boston's Logan Airport are often preferred hangouts) and high perches, where they

can approximate tundra hunting conditions.

Snowy owls do much of their hunting diurnally. This is no great surprise,

considering that there is daylight almost twenty-four hours a day during their high

Arctic breeding and nesting season. Conversely, they must also be efficient Night

10 hunters during the long stretches of almost total Arctic darkness.

Summer prey for snowy owls consists almost entirely of mammals—

mostly small, with lemmings making up the bulk of their diet. In

winter, especially for those owls that migrate south, their meals are far more varied.

Hares and ptarmigan help carry the owls through the winter in the Arctic, when

lemmings are mostly active beneath the snow. Owls wintering farther south have

proved quite adaptable when it comes to prey. Mice are a staple, but Norway rats are

also prime fare. For that matter, so are pigeons, rabbits, dead fish, and almost

anything else of suitable size that comes to the owls' attention.

It was once thought that these white visitors from the Arctic came south in

20 winter because of the shortage of lemmings. Although it's a complete myth that

lemmings periodically commit suicide by throwing themselves off cliffs into the sea,

where they drown en masse, the plump little rodents are notoriously cyclical, going

from almost unbelievably high populations to extreme scarcity every four or five

years. Unquestionably, lemming numbers have an effect on snowy owl populations,

but biologists are learning that the interrelationship between these two species is far

more complex than has heretofore been suspected.

For one thing, there's no evidence that lemming cycles are synchronized throughout the Arctic, and they may be quite regional. Since snowy owls by nature are great

travelers, it's no special feat for them to move from an area of lemming scarcity to

30 one of abundance. For another, large numbers of snowy owls migrate annually

to the Great Plains area of Canada and the United States without apparent reference

to lemming cycles. Much remains to be learned about the dynamics of the

lemming/snowy owl relationship.

From Owls Aren't Wise & Bats Aren't Blind by Warner Shedd. Copyright (c)2000 by Warner Shedd. Used by permission of Harmony Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
____ 10. The author's main purpose for writing this article is to




express feelings





____ 11. According to lines 7–10, one effect of the snowy owl's Arctic habitat is that the owls


choose lemmings over other mammals


have the ability to hunt day and Night


sleep during months of total darkness


migrate to warmer climates in winterigan

____ 12. Monitor your understanding of lines 13–15. In the winter, snowy owls


change their diet because lemmings are harder to catch


stop eating mammals and mostly eat plants


hunt exclusively at night to avoid predators


travel across the tundra with hares and ptarm


Directions Answer these questions about "Cool Operators" and the excerpt from Owls Aren't Wise and Bats Aren't Blind.
____ 13. What conclusion can you draw about the owls discussed in the two articles?


Northern owls migrate because they are ill-suited to survive the extreme weather of their harsh environments.


Bird watchers are more interested in the migration patterns of snowy owls than of other northern owls.


Most northern owls have been forced to migrate because of the destruction of their natural habitat in the boreal forest.


More research is necessary to fully understand the migration patterns of northern owls.

____ 14. How are the main ideas in the two selections different?


Berger discusses many types of owls, but Shedd focuses solely on the characteristics of great gray owls.


Shedd thinks that the snowy owls are better hunters, and Berger thinks that great gray owls are better hunters.


Berger only provides information, but Shedd stresses that readers should take action to protect owls.


Shedd addresses the relationship between predator and prey, but Berger focuses on the ways northern owls adapt.


Directions Answer these questions about the photograph.

____ 15. The photograph most likely shows a cracked egg in the setting to


show that another baby owl is hatching


illustrate the effects of humans on nature


suggest that the owl must fend for itself


suggest that the owl must fend for itself

____ 16. The purpose of the photographer's close-up of the baby owl is to


characterize the owl as a predator


emphasize the wildness of nature


draw the viewer's eyes to the grass


affect the viewer's emotions

____ 17. What overall mood does the photographer create with the image of the owl?










Directions Use your knowledge of denotation and connotation to answer the following questions. The line numbers will help you find the words in "All the Years of Her Life."

____ 18. What connotation does little have in line 2?









____ 19. What connotation does tapping have in line 63?









____ 20. The denotation of shifted in line 102 is "changed position." Which word below best describes its connotation?









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