Feathered Friends Lessons

Engaging science lessons brought to you by your local birds!

Our friends at Pennington Wild Birds are working with us to educate and engage children in the pleasures of feeding and watching birds. This free download is perfect for elementary educators. These easy-to-use and fun activities will help you teach science content year-round through your local birds.

 

We also invite educators to get a free Pennington Window Bird Feeder to support kids in observing birds at your school or organization. Note: $6 shipping applies and we can only send the feeders to schools and educational non-profit addresses, not residential addresses (as determined by UPS). 

You can find the supplemental resources for each month’s activities below. Just click on the month to jump to those resources. 

September – What Makes a Bird… a Bird?
October – Who’s That Up in the Sky?
November – What’s in a Habitat?
December – Behave Like a Bird
January – Eat Like a Bird
February – Be a Citizen Scientist
March – Taking Flight: Flying and Migration
April – How Can I Help?
May – Do You Hear What I Hear?
June – Nest and Chicks


SeptemberWhat Makes a Bird… a Bird?

Bird of the Month: American Crow

Click the image to learn more!

Engage: True or False? – Explanations

      1. Birds are the only living animals that have feathers.True. All birds have feathers. Some birds have highly modified feathers to fit particular functions, such as the fancy feathers on a peacock’s tail.
      2. All birds fly.False. While birds are known for their ability to fly, there are many that do not fly such as penguins (who swim), ostriches, emus, and kiwis.
      3. All birds have two wings.True. All birds have two wings!
      4. Birds lose and replace their damaged feathers.True. Birds can replace old and damaged feathers through molting. Molting generally occurs after nesting or before migration when the bird has enough resources and energy.
      5. All birds have thick, heavy bones that provide the structure needed to fly.False. Most birds have adapted to have very light but strong bones, so they are light enough to fly. A few flightless birds, like penguins, have solid bones.
      6. Birds have poor eyesight.False. Birds generally have very good sight.  Many birds can see color; some can even see light ranging in the ultraviolet spectrum that humans cannot see!
      7. Bird hearts beat more slowly than human hearts.False. The heartbeats of birds are faster than those of humans. In fact, a hummingbird’s heart beats over 1,260 times per minute! For comparison, a human’s heart rate is usually 60 to 100 beats per minute.
      8. All birds lay eggs.True. All birds species do lay eggs. Male birds do not.
      9. Most birds eat worms.False. There is a large variety of diets among birds.  Birds eat anything from seeds, nectar, insects, worms, fish, crustaceans, frogs, to small animals.
      10. All birds sing.False. While not all birds sing the beautiful songs we commonly think of, most are capable of making a variety of sounds. They be calls, chip notes, or pecking against a tree. Males do more singing in many song birds.

Challenging Statements – Explanations

      1. All birds migrate. ⇒ False. Not all birds migrate; for example, the Rock Pigeon is one species which remains in one area all year round. This bird is found throughout the U.S. Many birds, especially those that eat insects, must migrate to find food.
      2. Birds are vertebrate animals. ⇒ True. Birds are vertebrate animals that have a backbone and internal skeleton–just like us!
      3. All birds are warm-blooded. ⇒ True. All birds are warm-blooded, or endothermic. This means that birds are able to regulate their body temperature through various internal means.
      4. All baby birds hatch covered in downy feathers. ⇒ False. Not all baby birds are covered in downy feathers when they hatch. For example, many song birds, such as the America Crow, are born almost entirely naked.
      5. Male and female birds of some species look different.  ⇒ True. There are many species where the males and females look different from each other. One example is the Red-winged Blackbird. The male plumage matches his name, but the female is a dull brown with no red patches on her wing.

Explore: Bird Search

Bird Search PDF

Make copies of the PDF above for each student. In an outdoor environment, have students develop their observation skills by finding birds that fit in the appropriate category.

Inquire: Meet Three Feeder-Bird Groups

            

Chickadees, Finches, and Woodpeckers! (Click the images to learn more about these groups.)

 

September Take Home Pages PDF

 


OctoberWho’s That Up in the Sky?

Bird of the Month: House Sparrow

Click the image to learn more!

Supporting Text: Am I Like You? by Laura Erickson and Brian Sockin

Click the image for a teacher’s guide.

Engage: Silhouettes

 

Blank Bird Silhouettes

 

Labeled Bird Silhouettes

 

Download and print the Common Feeder Birds Mini Poster from Project FeederWatch.

Explore: Observe Feeder Birds

If going outside isn’t an option, the Cornell Lab’s FeederWatch live feed is a great alternative to looking at the birds you discussed in class. If you and your students wish to make regular feeder bird observations, consider participating in Project FeederWatch.

 

October Take Home Pages PDF

 


NovemberWhat’s in a Habitat?

Bird of the Month: American Robin

Click the image to learn more!

Supporting Text: On Duck Pond by Jane Yollen

Click the image for a teacher’s guide.

November Take Home Pages PDF

 


DecemberBehave Like a Bird

Birds of the Month – Red-winged Blackbird

Click the image to learn more!

Supporting Text: A Perfect Day for an Albatross by Caren Loebel-Fried

Click the image for a teacher’s guide.

Engage: Dance Like an Albatross

Watch the “How to dance – ‘Tross style” video and see if you can notice the different patterns Laysan Albatrosses make during courtship displays.

 

Explore: Birdy Says

Click the links below to see videos of the “Birdy Says” movements.

 Inquire: Backyard Bird Behaviors

 

December Take Home Pages PDF

 


January Eat Like a Bird

Bird of the Month: Mourning Dove

Click the image to learn more!

Supporting Text: Beauty and the Beak by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp

Click the image for details.

Engage: Food Detectives

Below are links to species eating various foods you may provide to your students:

Inquire: Feeder Experiment

Don’t have a bird feeder? Order a free window bird feeder for you school, and visit the All About Birds site for feeder tips.

You can also look here for ways you can design an experiment through outdoor observations!

Follow this link for more information on Investigating Evidence.

 

January Take Home Pages PDF

 


February Be a Citizen Scientist

Birds of the Month: Purple Finch & House Finch

Click the image to learn about the Purple Finch!

 

Click the image to learn more about the House Finch!

Engage: Become a Bird Expert

Click the image for details on this year’s event, past year’s data, and information on how to participate!

For help in assigning birds to your students, here is a list of the top 10 most common birds seen during the 2017 GBBC:

Species Sightings
Northern Cardinal  52,422
American Crow  47,275
Mourning Dove  47,076
Dark-eyed Junco  42,208
Downy Woodpecker  38,760
Blue Jay  38,402
Black-capped Chickadee  36,417
House Finch  35,889
House Sparrow  33,749
White-breasted Nuthatch 32,598

Visit the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) site for information on helpful birding apps and a review of the overall stats for the world.


February Take Home Pages PDF

 


March Taking Flight: Flying and Migration

Bird of the Month: Dark-eyed Junco

Click the image for more information!

Supporting Text: Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Click the image for details.

Engage: Take Wing

Not familiar with migration? Learn the basics of bird migration to further support your bird migration game.

 

March Take Home Pages PDF

 


April How Can I Help?

Birds of the Month: European Starling

Click the image for more information!

Supporting Text: An Eagle’s Feather by Minfong Ho

Click the image for more details.

Engage: Before Humans

Challenge your students to think about how humans have impacted different types of habitats. Print one copy of each Habitat Sheet for your student groups.

Inquire: eBird STEM Models

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eBird STEM (Spatio-Temporal Exploratory Model) Abundance Models are species distribution models that have been specifically developed for eBird data by statisticians and researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We are continually developing these models, so be sure to check back for more!

 

April Take Home Pages PDF

 


May Do You Hear What I Hear?

Bird of the Month: American Goldfinch

Click the image for more information!

Supporting Text: The Backyard Birdsong Guide (West or East) by Donald Kroodsma

Click this image for details on the Western version.

Click this image for detail on the Eastern/Central Version.

 

Engage: Listen and Learn

If you don’t have access to the supporting texts for this month, you can also access thousands of bird songs and calls with Macaulay Library. Some common bird sounds can be found here:

Black-capped Chickadee

Blue Jay

Wood Thrush

Dark-eyed Junco

Inquire: Bird Song Hero

Spectrograms provide a great visual when students first start to learn bird song. Bird Academy’s Bird Song Hero is an opportunity for students to test their spectrogram and bird song matching knowledge.

What Can You Hear?

Bird Species Sounds like…
Black-capped Chickadee  “chicka-dee-dee-dee”
American Crow  “caw, caw, caw”
Mourning Dove  “hoo-oo, hoo-hoo-hoo”
American Robin  “cheer-up, cheer-up”
Northern Cardinal  “wa-cheer, wa-cheer”
Blue Jay  “jay, jay”
American Goldfinch  “potato-chip, potato-chip”
Red-winged Blackbird  “o-ka-lee, o-ka-lee”

 

May Take Home Pages PDF

 


June Nests and Chicks!

Bird of the Month: Brown-headed Cowbird

Click the image for more information!

 

Supporting Text: On Bird Hill by Jane Yolen

Click the image for more details.

Engage: Why Build a Nest?

Why do birds build nests? Have you ever seen a nest before? If you have, what did it look like? Where did you find it?

Inquire: Nesting True/False – Explanations

      1. All birds build nests. ⇒ False. Some do not. For example Brown-headed Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.
      2. Some birds give birth to live babies rather than lay eggs. ⇒ False. All species of birds lay eggs.
      3. Eggs and chicks are not always safe in their nest. ⇒ True. Birds such as Blue Jays and crows, and other animals such as chipmunks, raccoons, and snakes will eat eggs if they find them!
      4. Most birds live in their nests year-round.False. Nests are only for laying eggs and raising of young. However some birds like owls will use nest boxes for cover during the day.
      5. Only the female sits on the eggs. ⇒ False. It depends on the species. Most species co-parent.
      6. Most baby birds are fed seeds and berries by their parents.False. Most birds are fed insects which provide protein for growing chicks. Raptors and herons feed their nestlings meat from fish and animals.
      7. Birds can breathe inside their eggs before they hatch. ⇒ True. Eggshells are porous enough for gases like carbon dioxide and oxygen to pass through it.
      8. Eggshells are made out of the same materials as chalk.True. Both are made primarily of calcium carbonate.
      9. The egg yolk (yellow) grows into a baby bird.False. The yolk provides food for the growing bird.
      10. If you find a baby bird you should feed it bread and milk.False. Birds cannot digest milk, and bread will not help them! If you find a nestling, put it back in the nest. If you find a fledgling, leave it alone! It is just practicing being out of the nest. When in doubt, call a wildlife rehabilitator.

 

June Take Home Pages PDF

 

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