Bird Study

Any season is a great season to learn about birds. Here are some science activities you can do to learn more about our feathered neighbors:

1. Listen to birds singing in your backyard or school grounds. How many different bird songs can you notice? Can you identify which birds are singing which songs? Try to see the bird that is singing or use a recording of bird songs to help you. Get arecording of bird songs to help you.

2. Get a field guide and start to learn how to identify birds. 

3. Watch an individual bird for 15 minutes or more. How much time does it spend getting food? How much time singing? How much time looking around for predators? Does it gather nesting materials? Does it chase other birds? Does it visit a nest? How large an area does it move around in? What other birds does it pay attention to? What does it do with other birds? Why do you think it is doing these things?

4. Keep a list of the different kinds of birds you see in your yard, your neighborhood or in a nearby park. Are all of these birds residents or are some of them migrating through? How can you find out? Investigate how you can improve your yard, your neighborhood or your school to attract more birds.

5. If you find a nest, observe it to see how long it takes for the eggs to hatch and for the young to fledge (leave the nest). Do not go to the nest as this can leave your scent there for a curious predator to follow and rob the nest of the eggs or young. Raccoons are notorious for this. 

6. Get plans for a milk carton bird house, build it and put it up in your yard. Wooden bird houses really are better since they insulate against temperature extremes. See our Building a Bird House page for links to plans. Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology'snestbox Webcam to see inside bird houses that have young in them.

7. Go on a bird walk with an area bird club or at a nature center. Ask others to help you by pointing out the birds they see and explaining how they recognize them.

8. Choose one bird song you can recognize, a cardinal for example, and go around your neighborhood listening for that bird's song. How many cardinals do you hear? If each one is in its own territory, how many pairs seem to be nesting in your neighborhood?

9. Never rescue a baby bird by taking it home! If you find a baby bird with most of its feathers already present and it doesn't seem to fly well, it is a fledgling. Its parents will still feed it. It is just learning to fly. If a cat or other predator is nearby, you can pick it up and put it in a nearby shrub or tree to protect it. Taking it home is both illegal and likely to result in the bird dying of malnutrition. Raising a healthy baby bird is a full time job best left to the birds.

10. Visit our Bird Unit Page or the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology Web pages for more information, links and ideas.
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