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For STEM Friday we're going to the birds again with a new middle grade book, Birdology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Birds (Young Naturalists) by Monica Russo and photographs by Kevin Byron.

If you are already familiar with Chicago Review Press books for kids, you will recognize the format. Each section reveals information about a topic, such as feathers, and then provides suggestions for making observations and for appropriate hands-on activities to reinforce learning.

Birdology gives an introduction to many aspects of bird biology, such as their anatomy and special characteristics, where to look for them, what they eat, bird migratory behavior, etc. In the final section it explores common careers that involve working with birds.

The author is very careful to point out that it is illegal to collect or possess feathers, nests or eggs of wild birds. All the activity suggestions keep this important consideration in mind.

Educators will be interested in the Teacher's Guide and Resources in the back matter. Monica Russo is an experienced teacher, which is evident because the Teacher's Guide includes suggestions for how to accommodate a student who is afraid of birds. That is not something a beginning teacher is likely to have encountered.

Kevin Byron's photographs are inspiring (see activity suggestion below). You almost wish more space had been devoted to them, although that might have left less room for the fabulous activities. See what I mean by checking out the barn swallow in flight on page 76.

Birdology is a must have book for beginning ornithologists, and basically any older child interested in science and nature. It would be wonderful paired with a citizen science project such as the Great Backyard Bird Count. Educators will also want a copy for ideas for quick projects that are appealing and well-designed, and that could work with multi-aged groups.

Age Range: 7 and up
Publisher: Chicago Review Press (January 1, 2015)
ISBN-10: 161374949X
ISBN-13: 978-1613749494

Related activity suggestions:

1. Anting by birds

Imagine you are watching some big black birds called crows. Suddenly one spies an ant mound, runs over to it and starts flopping around on it while ruffling its wings. Then it grabs some of the ants and starts thrusting them up into its feathers. What is wrong with this crow? Has it eaten some bad food? What is it doing?

In fact, the bird is using the ants’ defensive chemicals as a personal bug killer. Birders call this behavior “anting.”

Birds can be host to various itchy lice and mites. Scientists have long thought that by anting birds kill these parasites, but few are willing to do the experiments to prove it. However, one man actually took the lice off several birds he had observed anting and compared them to the lice on some birds that hadn’t anted. He found many of the lice from the anting birds died, but only a few from the non-anting birds.

When the birds actively pick up the ants and wipe their wings with them, it is called active anting. Other birds simply squat or lie on an anthill shaking their wings and tails, and stirring up the ants. This behavior is called passive anting.

You can see an example of passive anting in the following video (there is background music):

Doesn't the behavior look odd at first?

When you are watching birds, be sure to keep your eye out for birds that are anting. Document your observations in a nature notebook, sketchbook, with photographs, or with video and then share them with others.

2. Bird Photography

Birds are often small and active, but with patience and experience, children can learn how to photograph birds.

Tips:

With any camera, start with larger birds that are easy to spot and are not likely to fly away. Water birds might be a good choice.

mallard-duck

Think about the background. Again, water birds make this easier because the water is generally uniform and gives good contrast.

heron background issuesSee how much easier it is to spot the mallard in the top photograph, where the heron gets lost in the second photograph?

heron-headNo pesky background in this photograph.

goose-head

Add interest to a photograph by concentrating on the head and eye of the bird. If  you study Kevin Byron's photographs, you will see he does this.

Encourage your budding photographers to keep records of what kinds of birds they photograph, where and when the photograph was taken, what the birds were doing, etc.

Talk about the photographs, too. Compare the beak of the heron versus the goose. Do you know what each kind of bird eats? (Herons eat fish whereas geese graze on vegetation.) Who knows what else you might discover!

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Previous Growing With Science posts with bird-related activities:

 

More Resources:

Check our Pinterest board of bird-related activities.

Looking for more bird books for children?

childrens-books-for-young-birdwatchersA growing list of bird books for kids at Science Books for Kids

Taking-Flight-childrens-books-about-bird-migration-300x270plus a list of children's books specifically about bird migrations.

 

Disclosures: The book above was from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

 

Want to learn more about your local birds? One of our favorite bird-related activities, the Great Backyard Bird Count, is coming up next month:  February 13-16, 2015.

GBBCblogbutton

The bird count is a prime example of a child-friendly citizen science project. Basically all you need to do is count the birds you see over 15 minutes and then report them on the website. Although it is called "backyard," you can count anywhere you find birds, including parks, preserves or fields.

There is plenty of information and instructions about getting started at the website.

Related Activities:

We recommend picking up some good informational books about birds to share. For example, Capstone Press has a number of books for beginning readers, including the titles in the Birds of Prey Series.

Peregrine Falcons by Melissa Hill and Gail Saunders-Smith, PhD, Consultant Editor

Did you know that peregrine falcons are the fastest animals on the planet? They can reach speeds of over 200 mph when diving. They are found throughout the world, except at temperature extremes (hot tropics and coldest polar regions). Learn more about these incredibly fascinating birds.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: Capstone Press (February 1, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1491423102
ISBN-13: 978-1491423103

Older children might enjoy reading about Fire Birds by Sneed B. Collard III.

Fire Birds reveals the work of biology professor Dick Hutto, who has been investigating what happens to bird species after a forest fire. He found that some kinds of birds increase in number due to increased nest sites and food. He has come up with a list of 15 species that are closely associated with recently burned forests, which he calls "Fire Birds." Can you guess what they might be?

(This title was previously reviewed at our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.)

Ages: 8+
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Bucking Horse Books (December 10, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0984446079
ISBN-13: 978-0984446070

Looking for more children's books about birds? Try Taking Flight: a List of Children’s Books About Bird Migration at Science Books for Kids or...

Taking-Flight-childrens-books-about-bird-migration-300x270

...the list of children's books for young birdwatchers at Science Books for Kids

childrens-books-for-young-birdwatchers

You may also want to click the bird activities category here at Growing with Science for more posts relating to birds, as well as our For the Birds Pinterest page.

The Cornell Lab FeederWatch Project has even more educator resources.

We would love to hear if you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. What kinds of birds do you see in your backyard?

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Disclosure: Fire Birds book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

One of our favorite bird-related activities, the Great Backyard Bird Count, is coming up next month:  February 14-17, 2014.

great-backyard bird count 2014

The bird count is a fabulous example of a child-friendly citizen science project. Basically all you need to do is count the birds you see over 15 minutes and then report them. Although it is called "backyard," you can count anywhere you find birds, including parks, preserves or fields.

If you have participated before 2013, you will find the process has changed slightly. Now you will enter your data with the eBird data collection program, so there's an extra step. You will need to sign up for an account with eBird and then use that to enter your counts. The advantage of signing up is that you will be able to use eBird throughout the year, and you can keep bird lists, etc.

You will find plenty of information and instructions about how to participate at the website.

Be sure to check the links on the For Educators page for a lot of good ideas for activities to extend the project.

Remember:  One easy way to encourage birds is to plant sunflowers, like the ones in the photograph below, or other plants that produce fruit and seeds.

goldfinch-for-gbbc

Related:

You may want to click the bird activities category here at Growing with Science for more posts relating to birds, including last year's GBBC post  that contains additional activity ideas and links.

Are you doing a unit on birds? Here are two lists of bird books for children:

1. Taking Flight: a List of Children’s Books About Bird Migration at Science Books for Kids

Taking-Flight-childrens-books-about-bird-migration-300x270

2. List of children's books for young birdwatchers at Science Books for Kids

childrens-books-for-young-birdwatchers

We would love to hear if you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. What kinds of birds do you see in your backyard?

Edited Jan. 15, 2014