Birds of a Feather: Experiments for Backyard Birdwatchers
- 2011 4 May
"Birds of a feather flock together." Have you ever heard that old saying? It means that people and animals tend to hang out with others like them. However, isn't it interesting that birds are able to tell which ones are like themselves? God has given them instincts, abilities, and colors that are amazing.
Birds are so remarkable that many people like to watch them and record information about them. My family enjoys watching the birds in our own backyard. Even from this small setting, we have learned a lot about these feathered creatures. In the experiments below, your family can find out more about the birds that hang out in your backyard.
Experiment 1: What Do Your Birds Like to Eat?
- Bird guide
- Peanuts (in shell)
- Small box of raisins
- Bread crumbs
Place the different types of food in various areas of your yard, porch, or deck. Make sure that you are able to see each location from a window for observation. Watch and check your bird guide to see which species of birds are eating the different foods. It may take a day or two for you to actually see which birds eat what. You will begin to notice specific times they seem to come every day. Once you have learned what times are best to watch, you will be better able to figure out which variety is eating your food.
After several days, discontinue placing food out that is not being eaten. For example, my mother has a mockingbird that eats raisins in her backyard. However, we have never had any birds eat the raisins we place out, so we stopped using them. Remember that at different seasons you may have a few different varieties of birds. Some birds stay in the same area all year, so you may see these birds again and again. Our family likes to name the birds we see year-round; maybe your family will too.
Experiment 2: Which Color Do Your Birds Prefer?
Once you have established which species of birds come to your backyard, you can do experiments with them. This experiment tests whether birds prefer certain colors. If you have completed Experiment 1, you will know which foods the birds in your backyard enjoy. Use the most popular type of bird food in this experiment.
- 3 clay flower pot bottoms
- Red, yellow, and blue craft paint
- Bird food
Paint each flower pot bottom a different color. Let them dry overnight. The next day, place a little of your chosen bird food in each container. Set the containers near each other in an area where your birds usually feed. (Make sure this is a place you can see from a window.) Watch to see which feeder the birds eat from first. Notice the color of the birds eating from the different colors. Do different types of birds prefer different colored containers? Keep record of your observations and see what conclusions you can come to based on your data.
Recently, our backyard has had some blue jays move in. I am looking forward to trying this experiment again with them. I have noticed that animals and insects tend to be attracted to objects of their own color. For example, I often find butterflies the color of our vehicle sitting on it in the summer. I am always amazed at how God put this instinct within them. I look forward to seeing if our blue jays prefer the blue container that matches their feathers when getting their food.
Experiment 3: Create Your Own Bird-Watching Treat
Make your own special bird food for your feathered friends!
- 1 cup shortening or bacon drippings
- 1 cup cornmeal
- ¼ cup molasses or corn syrup
- ¼ cup fruit preserves
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup birdseed
- Shallow container
- 1 large ziplock bag
In a medium saucepan, melt the shortening over medium heat. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the cornmeal, molasses, and preserves. Add the peanut butter and birdseed. Stir well. Now place one heaping cup of the bird "tweat" into the shallow container and let cool. Place the remainder into a ziplock bag and store in a cool place. Place out for your birds as desired. Yields about 3 ½ cups.
The Great Backyard Bird Count
If you want to help do research by tracking where species of birds go around the nation, you can sign up to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count by visiting www.birdsource.org/gbbc. This is an annual event that takes place over a four day period every February, so you'll probably have to wait until next year to participate. But you may want to put it on your calendar now so you don't forget!
Have fun watching the birds in your own backyard!
*This article published on May 19, 2010.
Melissa Pinkley enjoys life with her husband, Wes. They learn a lot from their four children: Ben, Micah, Levi and Abigail. Homeschooling goes on 24/7 for the whole Pinkley family. They have been homeschooling for 10+ years. The Lord is gracious and continues to help them follow Him.
This article was originally published in the Mar/Apr 2010 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Sign up now to receive a FREE sample copy! Visit www.HSEmagazine.com today!