National Student Challenge

It’s easy to see why bird feeding is so popular – birds are beautiful, energetic, and fun! They also display really cool behaviors at the bird feeder. This year, join us in discovering something new about bird feeding behaviors by taking part in our National Challenge. We’ve teamed up with 3-D® Pet Products, Wild Delight® Outdoor Pet Products, Better Bird™, and Project FeederWatch to inspire young people to ask questions about the behaviors of their feeder birds and conduct investigations to find the answers.

The Challenge
What are behaviors are birds displaying at your feeders?

Watch the birds at your bird feeder and pay close attention to their behaviors. Are do some birds stay at the feeder longer while other birds grab food and fly away? Will specific species of birds scare away other species? Any bird feeder studies can be entered into our national student challenge as long as it focuses on wild feeder bird behavior. Recommended studies can be found below. Individual students, small groups, and entire classrooms are invited to take part in this national challenge.

Getting Started
Eligibility & Prizes

  1. How to Participate:
    1. Educators or parents, complete our online interest form and use the provided link to download Investigating Evidence. You’ll also get a coupon for free bird food to use during this national challenge.
    2. Start brainstorming your feeder behavior study. Check out the sample studies below or past BirdSleuth Investigator editions for inspiration.
    3. Complete your study, write it up, and submit to us through our BirdSleuth Investigator online submission process no later than May 1, 2019. (Be sure to check out our BirdSleuth Submission Rubric to help you share your best work with us!)



    • All participants will receive a $9 coupon for bird food after you download Investigating Evidence.
    • Published finalists will receive Project FeederWatch’s Common Feeder Birds poster, a $45 coupon good for future food from 3-D® Pet Products/Better Bird™/Wild Delight® Outdoor Pet Products, and assorted gifts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
    • The Grand Prize-winning report will be featured in BirdSleuth Investigator. The winning student, group, or class will also receive a $100 coupon for bird food from 3-D® Pet Products/Better Bird™/Wild Delight® Outdoor Pet Products, a free membership to Project FeederWatch, and other great gifts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
    • Please note, while all K-12 students are eligible to participate, we can only ship prizes to US addresses.

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join the national challenge


Sample National Challenge Studies:

Early Elementary (K-3)

Elementary standards include studying what living things need to survive. Encourage kids to watch birds and think of questions to explore. Keep in mind, kids don’t need to know every bird’s name. Consider having students measure variables like cups of seed eaten or total number of birds visiting. Or just focus on one bird species.

Examples – Do chickadees feed directly from the feeder or the ground? What time of the day do we see the most birds at the feeder?

Sample Study 

Question: Will a fake cat scare away birds?

Methods: The study will take two weeks. For one week students measure the cups of seed eaten from the bird feeder without the fake cat present. In the second week the feeder is refilled and the fake cat is placed next to it. Like the first week, students measure the cups of seed eaten from the bird feeder.

Report: Students calculate the total amount of seed eaten for both weeks and create a graph comparing them. Then they analyze the results and decide whether the fake cat reduced the cups of seed eaten. Go further by developing a study to determine whether birds learn that the fake cat isn’t a real threat.

Upper Elementary & Middle (4-8)

Upper elementary and middle school standards emphasize the role of animal groups and habitat on survival and behavior.

Examples – How do feeder birds react to predator calls? How long does a Black-capped Chickadee stay at the feeder compared to a Mourning Dove? Which species visit the feeder most often?

Sample Study 

Question: Will birds eat more from a feeder that has cover nearby or a feeder that is out on the open?

Methods: Find two different places to hang your bird feeders that are easily observable. One location should be near a tree or shrub and another should be out in the open, away from any cover. Have students record the number of bird visits to each feeder over several weeks or measure the amount of seed eaten from both.

Report: Create a graph to represent the total visits to the two feeders and determine if the hypothesis is supported or not. Challenge students to go further by seeing if there were any differences between species observed at the two feeders.

Secondary (9-12)

High school standards emphasize interactions within and between ecosystems. Students may want to investigate inter- and intra-species interactions or differences between group and individual behavior.

Examples – Do larger birds exhibit more aggressive behavior at a feeder? How do feeder birds behave when other animals are present (squirrels, cats, etc.)? How do species differ in their behaviors at feeders?

Sample Study 

Question: Which species are most successful at displacing others at the feeder and which species are most frequently displaced?

Methods: First, define what constitutes a successful displacement. (Does the bird just have to arrive and another leaves? Or does it need to display an act of aggression or dominance towards the displaced? This definition will affect your results.) Create a record sheet for the species and whether it was the aggressor or the bird displaced. Make sure each student has opportunities to observe the feeder and collect data. Ensure observations are occurring at the same time everyday. Have students organize, graph, and analyze data using Excel or some other program.

Report: Analyze total counts for each species’ role in displacement events, creating a ranking of those most likely to displace or be displaced. Use data to create graphs showing observations over time to visually represent species interactions. Create flowcharts identifying relationships between species.


  1.  by  Patricia Rader

    Hi – I’m a parent by the way.

    We had a robust and active set of feeders outside a big window in our house for several months and enjoyed watching all the different birds that came for a visit. It was amazing! We also were entertained by the squirrels who tried all they could, including death-defying stunts to get the seed, and htey often succeeded. But then a rat came and moved in and also tried top partake of the bounty and so we stopped feeding the birds. We all miss it. What can we do to attract and hep the birds while not attracting unwanted pests like rats?

    •  by  Kelly

      Hi Patricia! One of the best ways to avoid attracting unwanted animals like rats is to regularly rake up fallen seed from beneath your feeders. The squirrels will still be around because they are so acrobatic, but the lack of easily accessible seed will deter less nimble critters.

  2.  by  Budsarin Duguid

    Hi we only have a hummingbird feeder and we don’t really know about getting birdfeeder but I want to see birds what should I do?

  3.  by  Budsarin Duguid

    And not many hummingbirds come to our our hummingbird feeder 🙁

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