Observing Birds
activity exercisesuggested grade levels: 9-12
view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

Observing birds can be interesting as well as educational for people of all ages. There are many species of birds in Idaho and they occupy many different kinds of niches. The following activity will be a nice addition to any science class and can be incorporated into many different units. This exercise can also be adapted for use with butterflies, mammals, reptiles, dragonflies, or amphibians.

1. Students will learn how to use the bird section of the Digital Atlas.
2. Students will observe birds and be stimulated to study them.
3. Students will learn how to use a visual key to identify different groups of birds.

1. Purchase or build a birdfeeder and get birdseed from a grocery store.

2. Place birdfeeder where students can observe it from the classroom. Have a set of binoculars for students to look through if needed.

3. Observe the birds that visit the feeder making note of the kinds of species and any interesting behavior. Are some birds dominant? Do all kinds of birds visit the feeder?

4. Since not all bird species will visit feeder, you can also take bird watching trips to different habitats. The Digital Atlas can be taken on fieldtrips using a laptop computer. Use the Digital Atlas and field guides to identify and obtain information on birds that are seen visiting the feeder. To get there: Click on Atlas Home, Biology, Aves-Birds, then on Identification pages. To use the visual key, match your species with the choices given, at each choice select the one that has the same characteristics as your species. Pay close attention to detail. If done carefully, it should lead you to its home page where you can identify it and learn how it lives. Note: If a feeder is put up during the fall or winter months, make sure it stays up and is continuously supplied with seed because birds will learn to depend on it as a source of food for the winter.

5. Have class discussion on topics:
  a. Are some species seen more often at particular times of the year when compared with others?
  b. What kinds of birds would we not expect to see at a seed feeder?
  c. What do the birds observed at the feeder have in common?
  d. What else do birds eat?

Handouts/Activity links:
These are links to access the handouts and printable materials.
Identification pages

Related Lesson Topics:
Biology: Birds
Biology: Biology Topics

Lesson plan by James Scannell and Stefan Sommer, 2001
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: