Feathered Friends

On the Cornell web site, the icon for diet for the Wood Duck is Insects but the Life History section says, “Diet studies indicate a lot of variability, but plant materials make up 80% or more of what the species eats. ” This agrees with what I’ve read in the Peterson Guide and on the Audubon web site. I’ve also e-mailed the Cornell people about this (although I have not received an answer yet); I think the wrong icon was used by mistake and the main food of Wood Ducks is plants.


The Wood Duck does a diverse, mainly plant-based diet. To prevent confusion, there will not be a question about this on the exam.

Feathered Friends

Q. May I inquire how detailed the 4th and 5th graders will need to know bird anatomy? Can you provide some examples of what they will need to know? Additionally, what level of detail will they need to know about bird eggs?
A. In general – I would make sure to know:
***All the lingo from “Topography of a Bird” on the first page of the Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds 6th edition (it is the back page of the 1-page index). Students don’t need to memorize the words, but should be able to answer a question like “what color is the nape on this bird”. If they don’t know what a nape is, they could find it on that page in their field guide
***I would pay attention to the samples shown at the Leslie Science Center Field Trips (we don’t run the field trips, but the supervisors will be attending to look at what samples they have out – for example, in past years, one of the samples related to the skeletal differences between two birds and why they have this adaptation
***We put a photo of digestion in the powerpoint, students wouldn’t be expected to know details of the digestive system, but should know which birds have pellets and why
***structure of the feet and beaks (this was mentioned in a previous answer) between different birds
***know a few basic things about feathers and the specialized adaptations certain feathers have
This list isn’t comprehensive, but hopefully it gives you an idea of the level of detail.
Regarding eggs – If students are asked to identify a nest or eggs, they will be shown a photo of the eggs, nest, and habitat together. For questions like this, we often ask about birds that are a little different from “normal”

Feathered Friends

Q: “Why aren’t female birds included on the ID list this year? Identifying female birds is just as important as identifying male birds and my team was upset the female birds weren’t included this year.”

A: Thank you for the question and comments.

The study of female birds is just as important as the study of male birds.  The Olympiad event/exam includes questions about behavior and reproduction of both female and male birds.  Additionally identification of species without sexually dimorphic plumage will also include both female and male birds.  However, this year’s focus on visual identification of birds with sexually dimorphic plumage (plumage that occurs in two distinct forms) will be of male birds.

As with all WESO events, we encourage coaches, students and teams to extend learning as far as they wish to take it.  In fact, WESO exists to encourage a passion for learning science that extends beyond the classroom.  To feed a student’s passion beyond the event description and study guide is worthy of celebration.

Each year, WESO develops events with a particular focus.  WESO shares the focus in part to support coaches without expertise who wish to coach a team.  Our intent is to generate interest, excitement and participation as broadly as possible and encourage exploration regardless of initial knowledge and expertise.

For Feathered Friends, as well as all other events, WESO conducts an evaluation of the event’s success in meeting its goals at the end of the Olympiad and uses that information in developing future events.   Feedback from students and coaches is welcome.