Late winter and early spring are great times for bird watching and bird listening. The song birds are beginning to sing, and bird activity increases, with migrating birds returning and birds preparing for the nesting season. However, this time of year can also be challenging for some birds as berries, seeds, and insects are in short supply. Here is a neat activity to help the birds meet their food needs and a lesson plan to use with your preschool or elementary aged child(ren).
Make a Simple Pinecone Bird Feeder
- Search your yard (or a nearby forest) for pinecones.
- Spread natural peanut butter on the pinecone.
- Roll the peanut butter covered pinecone in a bowl of birdseed.
- Attach a string, hang the bird feeder outside from branch that is relatively protected from noise and disturbances, and wait patiently for the birds to arrive. Note: Sometimes, it can take a couple of weeks for the birds to find the bird feeder, but generally it is within a few days.
Lesson Plan (utilizing above activity)
Objective: Observe and identify birds in a backyard habitat.
Time: 2, 45-60 minute sessions; or one, 90-120 minute session (minimum)
Engage: Hang up pictures of common birds for your area. Ask students to point out what birds they recognize. Share the names of each bird with the students (they might recognize some of the names, too). Ask students to share what they know about birds. Check out the National Audubon Society bird page for great pictures and information.
Explore: Ask students what birds eat. Explain that they will be making a pinecone bird feeder that they will then hang outside in a designated area as a way to provide food for the birds. This will also allow the students to observe some of the birds by watching and listening. Following the directions in the hands-on activity (above), have each student (or pairs of students if it is a large class) make a bird feeder. *It would be best to hang up the bird feeders in a location where some bird seed has already been available for the birds, that way birds will be more likely to find it and will allow for more birds to be observed with the following nature journal activity. This could be done a few days in advance of completing this lesson with students.*
Explain: Read one (or both!) of the following books: How Do Birds Find Their Way? by Roma Gans and The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies. Both books geared for children and are about bird watching and bird behavior. Or, you could read another bird book, if you already have a great reference!
Elaborate: Once the feeders have been hung up, take the students outside to observe birds. They can record their observations in a bird watching nature journal. Observations can be in the form of drawn pictures and short notes (for those who are old enough to write). Encourage the children to close their eyes and listen for bird sounds, too. Students could also count the number of birds seen, or the number of each type of bird seen, on a simple chart. The observations can occur on one day only, or could happen over the course of a few days, it is really up to you!
Evaluate: Have students share some pictures and/or observations from their bird watching journal. How many birds did they see? How many different types of birds did they count? Revisit the pictures, what types of birds were seen?
**This post was shared on the Outdoor Play Party**