Build a Bird Nest
Use a clothespin as a birds’ beak and using natural items found on the ground, i.e. brown grass, fallen twigs, pine needles build a bird nest. Note: Use only “dead” natural items. Do not break tree limbs or use green plants or leaves. This activity should demonstrate the time and energy it takes to build a nest and the variety of natural items birds utilize. Extension: Go on a bird nest hike and see how many different nests you can find. NOTE: It is illegal to knock down or take a bird nest from the wild.
Build a Bird
Spend some quiet time drawing your own specifically adapted bird. Write or tell a story about what your bird eats, where it lives and how it catches its food.
Beginning Bird watching
Did you know that the best way to identify a bird is by its colorful markings? You can also use the other five S’s of bird watching. Use binoculars and a field guide (if you have one) to identify a variety of birds. You can also use this site to ID different birds. Early morning or late afternoon is the ideal time to go birding.
Six “S’s” of bird watching
Birds are extremely diverse with over 9,000 species worldwide and over 850 species in the U.S.
- Size – Small (sparrow), medium (robin) or large (crow)
- Shape – Tail, beak, feet, neck, head, etc..
- Shading – Many species have similar size and shapes, but coloring can differentiate between species, 50% of species display different coloration between male and female
- Song – Every species has a distinct song/call
- Surroundings – Where did you see it, what is the habitat
- Season – Is the bird a year round resident or does it migrate?
Use these six key points as guiding tools in identifying birds. Now quietly go out and i.d. the feathered friends in your natural area. How many different birds can you find?
Flap Like a Bird
Participants should bend their elbows and put their hands on their shoulders to form wings. Ask them to estimate how many times they think they can flap their arms (wings) in ten seconds. Separately time several participants for ten seconds. Compare with these rates:
- Pelican: 10 wing beats per ten seconds
- Crow: 20 wing beats per ten seconds
- Pigeon: 50 to 80 wing beats per ten seconds
- Chickadee: 270 wing beats per ten seconds
- Hummingbird: 500 to 700 wing beats per ten seconds
Pine Cone Bird Feeder
Have fun with this easy-to-make feeder and enjoy watching the birds that it attracts! You will need the following:
- One large open pine cone
- Vegetable shortening, lard or suet
- Oats or corn meal
- Bird seed
- A few feet of string
Tie a few feet of string to a pine cone. Cover the pine cone with the mixture below. Roll the pine cone in birdseed and then suspend it from a tree branch outside. This is an especially good activity to do in the winter when it is difficult for birds to find food. They will need the energy from the food you provide.
Mix ½ cup vegetable shortening, lard or suet with 2 ½ cups cornmeal or uncooked oats until well blended. It is optimal to add chopped dried fruit, chopped nuts, seeds (especially sunflower and millet), and or suet, which are high energy foods.
Bird IQ Test
Despite their reputation for not being very intelligent, birds can be quite brainy when it comes to getting food. Test your birds’ intelligence by offering them a snack in two containers, one of which is covered. You know to take the lid off, but do your birds?
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
• 2 small, clear flat-based containers
• Piece of stiff cardboard or paper
• Small pebbles
• Pen or pencil
- Turn one of the containers upside-down on the cardboard or paper, and trace around the lid. Turn the container over, and set the paper to one side for the moment.
- Fill both containers half-way with the small pebbles. This will prevent them from being knocked over while your birds eat.
- Make a lid for one of your containers by cutting around the outline on the cardboard or paper. Be sure to leave a small tab sticking out. Fasten the lid to one container by making a hinge with the tape.
- Fill the remainder of your containers with birdseed, closing the lid on one.
- Place the containers outside close to one another.
- Watch your feathered guests from indoors or from an outside hideaway. See if your birds are brainy enough to open the lid and feed after the food from the open container is gone.
Birds can be picky eaters just like humans can. From seeds and fruit to insects and worms, preferred foods can vary from bird to bird as much as the color of their feathers. You can find out what foods your backyard birds favor by hosting a special feathered feast.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
• Several identical bowls
• Sunflower seeds
• Oats that have been soaked in water
• Animal fat
• Soft fruit, like a banana or strawberry
- Locate a place in your yard that is close to bushes or overhanging trees.
- Set the bowls in a row, placing different food in each one. Watch your feathered guests feast from indoors or from an outside hideaway.
*Make sure your feast is out of reach of predators like cats.
*Be sure to clear away your feast before dark – leftover food could attract unwelcome guests such as raccoons, mice or rats.
Birds of Prey use keen eyesight and hearing to locate prey. Try to be like a hawk or eagle in this game in order to search for your prey. Choose one person to be the eagle. This person stands still in the eagle nest for 60 seconds while everyone else or the mice/voles/rabbits go and hide. These people must be able to see the eagle with one eye at all times. No hiding completely behind objects. After the 60 seconds, the eagle can open his/her eyes and look for the prey. The search is conducted in silence as the eagle uses all senses of sight and sound to locate prey. Once a person is found, the eagle must describe the shirt or hair color of that person. He/she must then come to the nest with the eagle. The eagle finds as much prey as he/she can. When no more can be found, the eagle closes his/her eyes for 30 seconds and all of the remaining prey move at least 5 steps closer to the eagle. The game continues until there is only one prey left. This person makes an eagle call to alert everyone else of their great hiding location. The winner becomes the next eagle.
Bird Migration Sensation
Materials: Large playing field or gymnasium; two paper plates for every three participants.
- Select a large playing area about 70 feet in length. Place the paper plates in two patches on the playing field. Place plates at each end of the playing field, designate one end of the field as the Nesting habit (summer range) and the other the “wintering habitat”. Count the number of plates to equal one plate per three participants at each end of the field.
- Explain to the participants that they are waterfowl, i.e. ducks, geese and will migrate between these two areas at instructors signal. Tell them the paper plate represent “wetlands” These wetlands provide suitable habitat for water birds. At the end of each journey, the participants will have to have one foot on a plate “wetland” to be able to continue. If they cannot get their foot on a plate, that means they have not found suitable habitat. They “die” and have to move to the sidelines and watch. During migration, the birds may want to “flap their wings” moving their arms like birds in flight.
- Let participants know only three birds can occupy a wetland (paper plate) at any one time. Explain to participants that there are limiting factors affecting wild populations. At times there will be abundant supplies of food, water, shelter and space. Yet, at other times the habitats will be stressed with many factors limiting the potential for survival.
- Begin the activity with all participants at the wintering habitat. Announce the start of the first migration. Have the participants migrate in slow motion until they become familiar with the process. On the first round, all the birds will successfully migrate to the nesting habitat. Explain that there has been no loss in the area of available habitat. Thus, a successful nesting season is at hand.
- Before the participants migrate toward the wintering habitat, turn over one plate from the wintering region. Explain that a large wetland area has been drained and used for agricultural purposes. Repeat the instruction to migrate and send the ducks to the wintering habitat. Have the three students that will be displaced stand on the sideline. Tell the participants that these three died as a result of loss of habitat. Remind the “dead birds” that they will have a chance to get back into the activity. They can come back as surviving hatchlings when favorable conditions prevail and there is habitat available in the nesting ground.
- Before the next migration to the nesting region, turn over four plates in the nesting habitat. This represents a catastrophic loss. Tell the students that is a result of an oil spill in the local river, severely damaging shoreline habitat. Instruct participants to migrate.
Note: A large number of participants will “die” from this migration. Before many cycles repeat, provide them with the opportunity for re-entry. Each time give the participants examples of favorable changes in the habitat that make it possible for the population to increase.
- Repeat the process for eight or ten migrations cycles to illustrate changes in habitat conditions with resulting impact on the birds. See the table below for possible conditions:
Limiting Factors Favorable Survival Factors
Wetland drainage Preservation of wetlands
Drought High rainfall
Pollution and contamination Restoration of habitat
of water Dynamic balance with predators
Conversion of wetlands to farm land Human action aimed at protecting and restoring wetlands
Lead shot in food supply Regulation of hunting & human predation
Activity credit to Aquatic Project WILD, Aquatic Education Activity Guide, 1987
Wetland Background Information for Migration Sensation
Migration is a mysterious topic.
Scientists have proposed that birds use the stars, the sun and even the earth’s magnetic field for guidance.
Wetlands are required by many migrating waterfowl, such as, ducks, geese, swans, cranes, ibises, herons, rails, egrets, gulls, terns, and shorebirds. These birds all require the presence of wetlands in their breeding habitat and on their wintering grounds.
Primary threats to the survival of migratory water birds are the disappearance and degradation of wetlands.
Millions of acres of wetlands have been purchased and protected to actively preserve and restore habitat for local wildlife.
Pollution, through pesticides such as insecticides and herbicides as well as the use of lead shot rather than steel shot during hunting, all take their toll.
Books and Information
- Feathers for Lunch by Lois Ehlert (Ages 4-7)
- Pocket Naturalist – Iowa Birds – An intro to Familiar Species
- Birds at Your Feeder by Dana Gardner and Nancy Overcott
- How Do Birds Find Their Way? By Roma Gans (Ages 5–9)
- 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names, Diana Wells (Ages 11 –adult)
- Eastern and Central North American Birds, Peterson Field Guide
- Songs of Wild birds Book and CD, Lang Elliot
- Raptor: A Kids Guide to Birds of Prey (Ages 9-11)
- City of North Liberty Green Spaces Map
- Iowa Winter Birds Iowa Association of Naturalists
- Iowa Nesting Birds Iowa Association of Naturalists
Bird Related Board Games
Evolution with Flight Expansion