Description: This experiment involves placing bird feeders with a specified amount of birdseed in different locations around the school grounds to determine if human presence has an impact. The birdseed is weighed each day for a period of five days to determine what location attracted the most birds. Data is collected and then submitted to be posted online.
Grade Levels: 3-4 (Note: This experiment can be simplified or made more challenging depending on the developmental levels of your students. See Teacher Information.)
Approximate Time Involved: 10 minutes each day to measure seed and place it in birdfeeders, 4 hours for the seeds to sit in the birdfeeders at each selected location, 20 minutes each day to collect bird seed from feeders and measure and record the amount of seed eaten by the birds from each location, and 10 minutes to enter data online. This procedure should be done for 5 consecutive days.
National Science Standards Addressed:
Content Standard A: As a result of activities in grades K-12, all students should develop
Content Standard C: As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of:
Program Standard D: The K-12 science program must give students access to appropriate and sufficient resources, including quality teachers, time, materials, and equipment, adequate and safe space, and the community.
Birds are all around us. They all have different eating habits. Very often their beaks determine what and how they eat. Bird feeders attract many diverse birds, and the majority of birds that are attracted are seed eating birds. Depending on location, birds can be densely or sparsely populated. A bird feeder could be a primary factor that determines the bird population at a particular location.
Children will set up bird feeders at several different locations to determine if frequency of visits is impacted by the proximity of the bird feeder to human activity. The amount of seeds will be weighed and the same amount will be placed in each bird feeder at each location. By measuring the weight of the seeds from each bird feeder after each 4-hour duration, the children will be able to determine which bird feeder was more populated by birds during that period of time.
This should become a team exercise where your student groups might each develop and write a hypothesis, list the materials they would use, the number of each item, and a procedure. An excellent way to assess this activity is to have the teams repeat each other's experiment to see if they achieve the same results. This will also replicate the real world challenges facing a research scientist.
Challenging Your Students to Be Problem Solvers:
To make the experiment more challenging to your students, you may want to pose questions and problems such as: Where in the school yard would you expect to find the most birds visiting your bird feeder? What type of seeds will attract the most birds to your bird feeder? What type of bird feeder will attract the most birds? Would there be anything you could add to your bird feeder that would cause fewer birds to be attracted to it? Design and conduct an experiment to determine where the most birds can be found in your schoolyard?
Needed Materials: 3 identical bird feeders that allow students to easily add and remove bird seed, identical bird feed (wild bird mixture), several zip-lock plastic baggies to collect and weigh bird seed, 1 spring scale or balance for weighing seed.
Safety Rule: Wash hands before and after collecting seeds with a mild unscented soap.
Student Information: The following information will provide you with the steps for setting up your bird feeder experiment. It is important to hold all of the variables constant except for those that are being manipulated. Constant (or controlled variables) would be such things as: the type of bird feeder, the amount of time the experiment is conducted, the amount of food put into the bird feeder. Manipulated (or independent) variables would be those things that we change to see if the response will be different. In this experiment it is the location of the bird feeder. The responding (or dependent) variable for this experiment will be the amount of birdseed that is eaten. NOTE: Temperature is one variable that will be difficult to control or intentionally manipulate in this experiment. However, from your experiments, you may be able to infer as to whether temperature has any impact on the number of birds eating from the bird feeders.
Procedural Steps for Conducting the Investigation
1. NOTE: To help you to know what data you will be collecting, develop a data-collecting table before beginning the experiment.
2. Determine the high traffic, medium traffic, and low traffic locations where the bird feeders will be placed. One might be placed near the front door where students pass by all the time. One could be placed near the back of the school where a medium number of students come by. One could be placed out in the corner of the playground where very few students come by.
3. Using a balance or spring scale, fill three reseal-able plastic bags with 50 grams of bird feed, one for each individual bird feeder. Make sure the measurement is as correct as possible by doing it at least twice.
4. Carefully place birdseed in each individual bird feeder. You should do this as early as possible and at the same time every day.
5. Leave the bird feed in the feeders for four hours.
6. After the four-hour period collect the seed from each bird feeder and place it in a plastic bag that is labeled with the location of the feeder.
7. Weigh each plastic bag of birdseed using the balance or spring scale. Subtract the weight of the leftover seed from the original weight (50 grams). Record the amount that the birds ate out of each feeder in a notebook or on the chalkboard.
8. Refill each plastic bag with birdseed so that it once again weighs 50 grams.
9. Repeat experiment for 5 days weighing and recording the results after each 4-hour period.
Below is a list of questions that can be used to stimulate student discussions. If your students are at a developmental level where you are able to challenge their higher level thinking skills, then only present them with the first set of questions from each group below. Use the second list of questions as a way to stimulate thinking when your students seem unable to expand their knowledge on their own.
Discussion Questions that Require More Critical Thinking Skills:
Discussion Questions that Require Less Critical Thinking Skills
Bird Care This is a special "kids" page for birds. You may also want take your students to the
Find a Bird Photo Album to look up pictures of different birds.
Enchanted Learning Teaches effective ways to watch birds.
Birding with a purpose This is a good source to look up species of birds
Wild birds This sight supplies both bird watching and bird feeding information.
Nature sound studio This is a clever sight where the children can click on different birds and hear the sounds.
National Bird-Feeding Society This is the sight for the national bird feeding society. It offers information on how to attract birds to feeders.
Bird Sounds Here are some more sounds that you can try out.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology This is a neat website to explore for all kinds of information about birds.
More links to Wildlands Habitat Information
Schoolyard Habitat Links Learn more about developing and maintaining schoolyard and backyard habitats by visiting these links.