Most of the birds that students see are wild. They are one of the few wild organisms that children can identify in the country and in the city. All children know what is meant by "to be free as a bird".
Birds have no teeth and their jaws have a hard covering called the beak or bill. The bill is adapted to the ways in which birds eat and to what they eat. Some birds can be a carnivore or meat eaters. A bird that eats worms is a carnivore. A filter feeder uses its bill to filter water for its food. Many water birds are filter feeders. A herbivore eats plants. A hummingbird eats nectar and is considered a herbivore. An omnivore can eat plants and meat. A bird that eats worms and seeds are considered an omnivore.
Birds feet can also help in determining how they live. Feet that are webbed means that the bird lives in water.
1. Give students the bird worksheet. Students will color the different types of beaks that show how different birds eat. They will use this sheet during lab, so make sure that they don't throw their sheets away. Also on the coloring sheet are ways to identify the type of bird's feet and observation of the feet can yield clues to the use of a particular bird's feet in his particular habitat.
2. Point out to the students that the size of the pictures do not represent the true proportions. They are to look at the overall shape for identification. Identifying birds can be a rewarding experience for children. However, you must give them clues to observe.
3. The worksheet shows the difference between bird beaks that are carnivores and herbivores. Discuss with students that the shape of the bill (long and broad--usually water) or beak (short--usually land birds) is important, not only for identification, but also to find out how the animal eats. Also, note the picture of the "tools" that explain how the beak works. The bird's feet also give clues to whether a bird is a predator or not.
4. The worksheet shows the difference between predators, insect eaters, seed crushing, filter feeders, and fish eaters. The feet also illustrate the differences between swimming, catching prey, climbing, perching, and wading.
5. You may want to use books in your library or the Internet to show students a variety of birds.
Water Birds include birds that can dive with ease and can swim underwater but are nearly helpless on land. These include loons, grebes, herons, egrets, cormorants, and pelicans.
Ducks, swans, and geese are also part of the waterfowl, but are usually found in marshlands. They are usually sociable and migrate in flocks.
Shorebirds include plovers, sandpipers, gulls, and terns. Most of these birds are found feeding at the water's edge or in fields.
Birds of prey are nature's hunters which include the vultures, hawks falcons, owls and osprey.
Land birds refers to birds that live on the ground with stout bills and strong legs. Their short, rounded wings carry them on brief bursts of flight to escape danger. Included in this groups are grouse, quails, pheasants and turkeys. Pigeons, doves, cuckoos are also part of this group.
Songbirds are considered perching birds. This is a large grouping of birds that includes ravens, mockingbirds, and most of the common birds. You can almost call this group wire or fencepost sitters.
Birds of a forest spend much of their time feeding in the forest, utilizing the trees for food, protection, and nesting.
Birds are important to humans for many reasons. The common chicken is a bird which is used for eggs and meat. Other birds are used for meat also. Many small birds help plants to pollinate. Predators like the owl are great rodent control. And birds are pleasing to the ear as well as sight. Imagine a world without birds!