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)
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.
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.
Think about the background. Again, water birds make this easier because the water is generally uniform and gives good contrast.
See how much easier it is to spot the mallard in the top photograph, where the heron gets lost in the second photograph?
No pesky background in this photograph.
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!
Previous Growing With Science posts with bird-related activities:
Check our Pinterest board of bird-related activities.
Looking for more bird books for children?
A growing list of bird books for kids at Science Books for Kids
plus 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.