Backyard Biology: Everyday Birds

We often overlook the most obvious opportunities! All around us there are thousands of breeds of birds and in each state or province the selection varies a great deal. Seize the opportunity to learn more about these everyday birds as Spring approaches and the weather warms up. Should you decide to do an entire unit on birds, or simply hang a feeder outside your window and do a little bird watching, these creatures are far too interesting to be passed over.

The Audubon Society has a wonderful website with many activities for students. Their site is definitely worth visiting at Also, the Council for Environmental Education hosts Project WILD was launched in 1983 and designed specifically for use as a teaching tool at the elementary level. Today, all 50 states in the US sponsor Project WILD in some capacity. The Canadian Wildlife Federation also participates. Check out the CWF’s website for more info. Project WILD includes more than just birds, too, so keep it in mind for Earth Day activities as well.

“I went to a craft store and bought several different fake birds. I made labels with their names and had the children label them and make a booklet-they really loved it. We are now keeping a record of any birds they see and we will make a graph of our results. I made a Parts of the Bird booklet and had the children color the different parts (beak, wing.) The older children can do a report on one or several birds and share with the whole class.” -Lori

“If you could find some deserted nests, have the kids take apart the nest with tweezers (wearing gloves) to see what it is made of and how many pieces there are, each piece meaning a trip to get it. City birds include all sorts of things. Call the local chapter of the Audubon Society for information on local birds. If you set up feeding stations they will come to you. Project Wild has many activities relating to bird and habitats. Perhaps someone could bring in a parakeet or other caged bird for viewing close up.” -Alice

“I recently did owl pellets with some 3rd graders. It went really well. It took us two days… we learned about owl pellets one day and dissected them the next. Another activity, depending on where you live, is learning about neo-tropical migratory birds. I live in CT and birds like yellow warblers, scarlet tanagers, ospreys, etc. live winters in the rainforest and breed in the spring and summers in the northeast. I was going to do a reverse scavenger hunt and give the children description of the bird and have them look around the room for the pieces of a picture that were cut up. They would find the pieces based on the descriptions and put together the bird. I hadn’t thought out what would happen if the children put together the wrong bird…” -Natalie

“I did a lesson on birds for an internship this year. The lesson involved habitats and the beaks of birds and what they’re good for and why…students were given different tools (pliers, tongs,…) that represented beaks and then students had to go to different habitat stations and try to “eat” food there- then we recorded how much food each tool was able to get at each station- the idea was that only certain beaks could get food in certain habitats. I’ve also seen a similar activity done for the topic of extinction where students are given a certain color food to “eat” (food is Fruit Loops)-some are given one color, others are told they can eat any color…they are also given straws to pick up food with and a cup for their nest back at the starting point..this brings on a discussion of what happens.” -Allison

Check out these sites for more ideas on how to incorporate birds into your Spring lesson plans. Thanks to T2T Contributor, Terri, for this great list of links!