Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Birdwatching Activity

We have a very faithful community of "feeder" birds in our backyard, and I supply them with thistle and safflower seed all year long. Although a lot of birds around here migrate south for the winter, many stay put, relying on birdfeeders and other sources of food to make it through until Spring.

This past weekend was The Great Backyard Birdcount, and I was inspired to make a new activity that I'll file away under "cultural."

First, I used Mrs. Riley's PageBuilder to create 3-part cards of the birds that visit our feeders most often:

(Thanks to Shannon for introducing me to this site. Up until now, the site has been free, but the public beta will expire at noon on Feb. 23, after which time subscriptions will cost $12 a month.)

Second, I created a birdwatching sheet featuring the birds introduced with the 3-part cards.

After my daughter matched the 3-part cards, she pulled a chair up to our back window and sat - patiently - and identified and recorded any birds that visited our feeders:

She really seemed to enjoy it and often yelled out new birds she had identified.

I was really pleased with how this activity turned out, because it required patience, observation, visual discrimination, etc. We reviewed the terms "male" and "female" and discussed the differences in plumage between male and female birds. The concepts "common" and "rare" made themselves abundantly clear, because some birds were always all over the feeder, while other birds were seen only once or not at all. Most important, my daughter seemed to enjoy it. At first she said, "Birdwatching is boring - there are no birds," but then they showed up and I noticed she grabbed her clipboard and headed right for her chair. The only drawback would be that I was the only control for error ("Mommy, is that a bluejay?").

I've made the birdwatching sheet I created available for download here. You could easily modify it to include birds that frequent your yard. Also, you can find/modify the cards I made at Mrs. Riley's PageBuilder by searching for "Feeder Birds of the Eastern US" Parts 1 and 2.

Happy birdwatching!


Erin said...

Any chance you will post your 3-part bird cards? We live in northern VA, too and my daughter is always asking me to help her identify the birds in our yard.

mommyme said...

What a wonderful activity. Thanks for posting this!

Jennie said...


As far as I know, I can't link to the cards at Mrs. Riley's PageBuilder. If you go to the site, you can do a search for "Feeder Birds of the Eastern US" (which is the name I gave the cards I created), and you should be able to find them (there are two sets). Let me know if you have any trouble finding them, and I'll try to come up with another solution.


Erin said...

Found them, thanks!

Julie said...

Thanks for posting the 3 part cards! Any chance you'll convert them to pdf? I'm on a Mac and can't seem to view the pictures. My sis-in-law is more handy on a mac, so I'll see what she can do, too.

Jennie said...

Hi Julie,

I converted the birdwatching sheet to a .pdf and uploaded it to box.net.


Amber said...

Hi! Thanks so much for sharing your amazing classroom with us. I love seeing the real Montessori materials *in action*. Keep up the great work!

tati said...

Wow! What an incredible activity. Usually it seems overwhelming to think kids could do birdwatching, but they can with this! Thanks!