Oily Birds (Good Oil, That is )

 Pelican WikiM April 21. 15This Month, we are Exploring how Oil can help Birds Better Adapt to wet environments.  Charles Darwin was a naturalist in the 1800s. He studied many plants and animals and looked at how they adapted to their environments and how they changed or evolved over time. In 1831, he journeyed to the Galapagos Islands, a set of islands off the coast of South America. Here he studied how animals had to adapt to live and how they differed from one another. He was particularly fascinated with the finches and the Tortoises that inhabited each island. He noticed that the Finches on each of the islands were similar enough to each other to identify that they were related but they each had different beaks. Some also had different coloring patterns and head shapes. He further studied the vegetation available on each island and concluded that the finches had to adapt to their environments and the beak size was dependent on the types of foods and seeds that the finches ate. Some had long narrow beaks while others had short thick beaks. This was because it was easier to get nectar from fruits and flowers with thin beaks and easier to crack hard shelled seeds with thick beaks. The finches had adapted to what food source was available for them on their island! (Photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/db/Brown_Pelican%2C_Pelagic_Boat_Trip.jpg/750px-Brown_Pelican%2C_Pelagic_Boat_Trip.jpg)

Charles Darwin coined the term “Natural Selection” which means that as nature changes, the organisms that are able to adapt the quickest are the ones that get to access necessary resources and are able to survive. Organisms that are able to adapt are the ones that can continue to reproduce while those that are not able to adapt will eventually die.


3 Clear Plastic Cups


Cotton Balls

Vegetable Oil


  1. Fill each cup with water.
  2. Place a dry cotton ball in the water and observe what happens.
  3. Dip a cotton ball in oil, making sure that half of the cotton ball remains dry.
  4. Place it in a second cup and observe what occurs.
  5. Place a cotton ball in oil, completely covering the entire cotton ball.
  6. Place it in the third cup and observe what happens.

What’s Happening?When the cotton ball is not covered in oil, it sinks to the bottom of the cup. When it has some oil on it, the oily portion flips to avoid the water but when the cotton ball is completely covered in oil it is able to float. With Ocean Birds, they produce oil that Coats their Feathers and this allows them to float on top of the water. If they did not have this oily coating they would sink like the cotton ball did. If they only had the oily coat on the feathers that were in the water, then they may have a hard time not flipping over. By having all of their Feathers coated in oil, they are able to comfortably and safely float on top of the water until they are ready to dive under to catch fish.

Interested in how animals adapt and evolve over time? Check out these neat online resources!

Ocn Scnce TpT VersionAnd Here is one from our classroom at Science-Lessons.ca: a 52-Card Playing Deck for Ocean Learning, includes 4 several games and completely downloadable for Print and Cut-out – Crazy Starfish! Go Snorkeling! Sea Cluster! and ?Hypothesy?Ordering:  Ocean Science: Ocean Creatures Playing Cards

Also, an updated and more improved version with Teachers Pay Teachers!

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