Section 3: Reading Comprehension

Section 3: Reading Comprehension

Questions 1 – 6: Choose the best multiple-choice answer for each question.
Keeping warm in winter is for the birds

You watch the weather forecast, gear up with hat, coat, scarf and gloves, but you still get cold after just a short time in the snow and wind. If it’s such a challenge for humans to stay warm outside, how do birds―especially the little delicate guys like chickadees and titmice―survive the single-digit temperatures and whipping winds of winter? It turns out that birds (even the little guys) aren’t so delicate after all, and they’ve got a few tricks up their sleeve (uh, wing), too. Their first layer of defense against the cold is their outer-most one: feathers. There’s a good reason why people love down-filled winter coats―feathers are fantastic insulation. “Feathers are incredibly specialized structures that serve many purposes including, for many species, keeping them warm,” says Peter Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo. (Excerpt from 'Keeping warm in winter is for the birds', si.edu, 2015)

What is the meaning of the word “delicate” in the paragraph above?

weak; easily broken or damaged
rare; unique
expensive or luxurious
Become a Dark Energy Explorer!

Dark energy makes the whole universe expand faster and faster! But what causes this spectacular process? Join NASA’s newest citizen science project, Dark Energy Explorers, and help figure out this puzzle. At Dark Energy Explorers, you’ll look through images of distant galaxies and other data to help build a map of the universe, focusing on the region about 10 billion light years away. The images come from the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment, based at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory. Various explanations for dark energy predict different changes in the expansion rate. Those changes will affect the map in different ways—so your work will help astrophysicists use the map to sort through the possibilities. (Excerpt from 'Become a Dark Energy Explorer!', science.nasa.gov, 2023)

What is the purpose of the text?

To explain what dark matter is.
To invite people to help with a science project.
To describe how a telescope works.
To raise money for a science experiment.
Astonishing Snowy Owl Spotted in Southern California Neighborhood

A snowy owl that looks like it should be flying about the wintry wizarding world of Harry Potter has been spotted among the palm trees of beachy Southern California. Snowy owls are native to the Arctic tundra, where their largely white coats camouflage them in the snow, according to the National Audubon Society, which protects birds across the Americas.

“They’re most common in very, very North Canada,” said Jaret Davey, a wildlife technician and volunteer coordinator at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, California. “The southern limit of their winter range is in the northern United States. So it’s not uncommon for them to be in Washington or Minnesota or Maine in the winter. But to be this far south is really exceptional.”

Residents in a neighborhood in Cypress, California — about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles — got a surprise when the owl first appeared in mid-December. It has been spotted every day since December 27.

“It’s astonishing to see a snowy owl in Southern California,” said Chris Spurgeon, program chair and member of the board of directors at the Pasadena Audubon Society. Spurgeon and Davey aren’t alone in their excitement. There have been hundreds of people admiring the owl some days, and some have travelled hundreds of miles, Davey said.

“In February … I flew to Manitoba (Canada), and then drove several hours north just to see a snowy owl,” Spurgeon said. “It was 25 degrees below zero in northern Canada. I never thought I’d see one standing in my shirtsleeves on a suburban street in 70-degree weather.”

Snowy owls are classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ 2021 Red List of Threatened Species. There are fewer than 500,000 snowy owls in the world, which isn’t a huge number “when it comes to birds,” Spurgeon said.

“We could be vastly wrong with that number because they do live so far away from most people,” he said. “And unfortunately, many birds are threatened by climate change. With the changing conditions in the Arctic, it’s affecting them as well as everyone else.”

No one knows exactly why and how the West Coast snowy owl got to a place so far from its natural habitat, but bird experts have a few theories.

“Birds that migrate do occasionally do crazy things: go in the wrong direction, go too far, migrate at the wrong time of year, stuff like that,” Spurgeon said.

This can also happen if a bird is young and hasn’t migrated many times before, Davey said. The brown spots on snowy owls’ feathers usually get wider as they age, so the size of the California owl’s spots suggest it could have been born within the last couple of years, Spurgeon said.

The owl could have hitched a ride on a passing cargo ship while flying across the sea, went all the way to a seaport and found itself back on land, Spurgeon and Davey said. It also could have escaped from being illegally kept as a pet. (Adapted from ‘Astonishing snowy owl spotted in Southern California neighborhood', cnn.com, 2023)

What is so surprising about this news story?

Snowy owls often migrate to California.
It is too cold in December for snowy owls to survive in Canada.
Snowy owls are rarely seen in California in December.
Snowy owls always stay in the Arctic during the wintertime.
What does the word “vulnerable” mean in paragraph 6?
at risk
According to the article, it is possible that the owl ended up in California because _______.
it was searching for food
it was born there
it escaped from a zoo
it landed on a boat heading south
Chris Spurgeon suggests the owl spotted in California is young, because_______.
it does not have very wide brown spots on its feathers
all snowy owls have wide brown spots on their feathers
it is smaller than usual
it is large
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