On March 14, visitors from the Lincoln Children's Zoo came to our 5th grade classroom. Former St. Joseph student and zoo COO Evan Killeen and zookeeper Hailey Kizer and showed off Scout, a screech owl; Stella, a skunk; and Taz, a tawny frogmouth.

Despite being fully grown, Scout is still about the weight of a can of soda. These little birds have an extrordinairy sense of hearing so they can find prey scurrying on the ground and through grass. Their coloring is supposed to protect them by mimicing a tree branch and screech owls can even imitate the natural movements of a branch by swaying back and forth. In captivity, these birds can live more than 20 years. Nebraska is about the western-most edge of screech owl territory.

Skunks can spray their victims up to 10 feet away! Thankfully, Stella had her stink glands removed. Skunks typically live around 3 years in the wild, but can live up to 10 in captivity. Aside from the smell and occasional overtunrned trashcan, skunks typically make good neighbors. They're omnivores, and will eat many things we consider to be pests like insects, worms, reptiles and rodents.

Taz was a particularly special treat. Kizer raised this bird from an egg and this was Taz's first time outside of the zoo. Frogmouths are native to Tasmania - hence the name Taz. They eat much like a Venus Fly Trap. Frogmouths let their smelly mouths hang open to attract insects and once one lands, they snap shut. Their natural defense is to blend in with their surroundings. They'll suck in their feathers and stay stiff to look like a branch on a tree. Kizer said she often has to ask for help to locate the frogmouths in their enclosure. Make sure to try and find one next time you visit the zoo!