Odd One Out

A home for baby birds

Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 5 – 7

Science topics:

Living things and their habitats

Put your class' observation skills to the test with these three different nests. This activity is great for promoting observation and discussion skills.

Run the activity

1. Show the three images above and ask everyone to come up with as many similarities and differences as they can. If they get stuck, prompt them to think about:

  • appearance
  • what they do
  • where they might be found

2. Then, everyone needs to decide which one is the odd one out and why. Encourage a reason for every answer and there is no wrong answer!


Background science

In these images, you see three baby birds in the nest - a rook, a long, tailed tit and a swan with their cygnet.  Many breeds of bird build nests as a place to lay their eggs and rear their young. The nests help to keep the young warm and safe, for example, by preventing them from rolling or falling out of a tree or off a cliff. It also keeps the young animals close together so that they stay warm and are more easily brooded by the parent (brooding is where a bird sits on the eggs or chicks to keep them warm).

Some birds, like the rook build nests which are little more than a loose collection of sticks. The long-tailed tit covers their nest with lichen for camouflage. Swans build their nests with sticks, grasses, rushes and other vegetation. For many birds, both parents work together as they get ready for the female to lay the eggs. Some birds share brooding of the young, although in other breeds, this is done solely by the female. In these cases, the female birds often have drab feathers which help them to remain camouflaged during this vulnerable time.

While working on this activity with your class, bear in mind that many children have a misconception that birds are not animals (you will even hear adults refer to ‘animals and birds'). You can help to counteract this by regularly referring to birds as a type of animal.

Take it further

Different birds build different nests depending on different habitats and ways of living. If you are interested you can find out more at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. If you are planning on putting nest boxes up in school, be aware that different boxes attract different birds. Also, some nest boxes that may look attractive are not as suitable as others as they can leave young birds vulnerable to predation or over-heating; you can find out more about suitable ones at the RSPB website. As the days lengthen in January, birds will already be starting to think about where to nest, so do put up nest boxes as early as possible in the year.

Image credits: 

The nest of the rook in nature by Vishnevskiy Vasily;

Long Tailed Tit in nest by Coulanges;

Swan family by Keattikorn;

all via Shutterstock SL