Bird watching is a great way for children and teens to become aware of birds. Birds can be found anywhere, all year round. You can feed birds outside your window, watch birds at school, a nearby park, or at home, you can listen for birds, or even use birdy subjects for your next sketch!
Consider ways teachers across several grades can work together to scaffold up student’s bird knowledge and interest.
Read about birds
Start your birdy explorations with books and websites, below are just a few possibilities!
- Curious About Birds – Cathryn Sill
- Every Day Birds – Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
- Ruby’s Birds – Mya Thompson
- Feathers: Not Just for Flying – Melissa Stewart
- Get to Know These 20 Common Birds – Audubon January 2018
Have you tried “bird listening?”
Sometimes you hear birds well before you can see them! With younger students try this book for a simple introduction to bird calls: Noisy Bird Sing-Along – John Himmelman. Everyone might like to browse Audubon’s Guide to North American Birds to hear samples of bird calls. Search for birds found in your area.
Help your students research how to attract birds to bird feeders, help design landscape improvements, and build or raise funds to purchase bird feeders and the feed. Use this area to encourage quiet reflection and watching of bird behavior. Birds at bird feeders are an opportunity to learn how to use binoculars. Could you work this into a multi-grade project?
Bird behavior is fascinating to children and adults. Different species have definite and recognizable behaviors. Some bird behaviors are so species-specific that one can identify a bird on location and behavior description alone.
Middle school and high school teachers and students might like to go out in the field to look for birds. Ask a local nature center or Audubon birding group for suggestions on birding locations near your school. Gather the basic gear: a field notebook, a field guide, and binoculars, if you have them, and go outside.
- Weekly migration forecasts are available from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdCast project to help you know what to look for and which days to go out. Have kids observe and record what they see in several different habitats and make comparisons.
The Project WILD connection
Wildlife professionals inventory wildlife populations to gather information about the number and kinds of wildlife in a given area. Use Project WILD’s Bird Song Survey to give your middle school or high school students experience inventorying a local bird population.
Combine tech and birding
Start with the Merlin and eBird apps. Merlin has a simple, user-friendly interface that helps birding become both easy and fun. To identify a bird, Merlin first asks five questions – when, where, size, color, and activity of the bird observed. Using eBird data, Merlin then gives the most common species around you who fit the criteria provided. It also provides 1,000+ photo resources, tips from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s expert birders, and bird sounds from the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library. Cost: Free for iOS and Android users. http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/
Binoculars for Children
Info from Iowa Young Birders about binoculars
Teaching Bird ID
Bird Song Hero: The Song Learning Game for Everyone
Field Checklist of Iowa Birds (downloads as a PDF)
Cornell Lab of Ornithology K-12 Education
All About Birds
Audubon birding apps