Birds Across Changing Seasons

By Jennifer Fee, K-12 Program Manager

The more I learn about birds, the more I notice them. Over the last ten years, they’ve become a bigger part of my everyday life. For example, I like changing seasons (I think it would be hard for me to live in a place that didn’t have a fall with red-orange-yellow leaves, a blustery winter, a spring green, and a baking hot summer). More and more, I mark the changing seasons by the changing habits of birds: winter is marked by Dark-eyed Juncos at the feeder outside my kitchen window, the Red-winged Blackbirds let me know it is finally February with their territorial calls, seeing birds flying with nesting material and insects in their mouths mean it’s breeding season, and large flocks of European Starlings gathering on telephone wires indicate summer is coming to a close. This fall, I’ve noticed the leaves changing as I usually do, but I’m also marking the seasonal change with birds and their behavior.

Some birds are flocking… others are flying south. The species I see out the window are different from the ones two months ago. There’s also a different sound to fall… the singing of the summer has come to a close, and now I am noticing little “chips” and loud geese honks. Ever since I heard this radio broadcast, I can’t stop noticing geese flying overhead and considering the “whys and hows” of flying in a V… and I also note the big flocks of blackbirds and starlings, smaller birds who are conspicuously NOT flying in neat alphabet-shapes.

It’s easy to connect to birds and to just open your eyes to them because birds are everywhere. For educators, birds provide a neat way to connect kids to science and other subjects; they can be used to teach about everything from seasonal change to physics (flight, sound) to math (bird counts, population changes) to biology (habitat, conservation, diversity)! With so many possible connections, no matter the season, can you give any of the content you’re teaching a “bird’s eye view”?

StudentGroup Wildlab

Group Observations | Get outside during the fall or spring and see what behaviors you notice in birds. (Photo by Wildlab)

Discussion questions:

  1. What is migration?
  2. Why do large birds fly in a “V”, whereas small birds don’t?
  3. How do birds like Canada Geese benefit by flying in a “V”?

Related questions to research with students:

  1. Why do some birds migrate and others don’t?
  2. How do migrating birds find their way?

Related Activities and Resources:

  • Find out which species of birds are migrating in your neighborhood this season (visit eBird¬† and “view and explore data”).
  • Listen for birds during the day: what bird species are calling in your area? Go out on a clear night and see if you can hear birds or other nocturnal animals. Or test your skills with the Bird Song Hero interactive game.
  • Learn more about¬†Canada Geese or other species on the All About Birds website.
  • Try the November lesson of our free, downloadable Feathered Friends lesson series and discover what birds have to deal with as they migrate!

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