Explorify at home: Birds
This collection of activities about birds is ideal to do at home with your little explorers. Enjoy a good afternoon of science each week!
Explorify at home is a special series of science activities for parents and carers of primary school children who are now learning at home. We define activities by age and curriculum topics in Explorify, but these collections are also suitable to do all together as a family of mixed aged children. Or if your little scientist just wants to explore further, pick something from the other age sections for inspiration! Teachers can find out about our full (free!) classroom resource at the bottom of this page.
This collection is all about birds. Every January many schools and families throughout the UK have taken part in an annual survey of birds in our gardens and public spaces, organised by the RSPB. While schools are closed, we’d like to support you to explore the wonderful birds that make their homes in the UK. Watch together and look closely – describe the different birds you can see and look at how they interact with their habitat.
For children aged 5-7
First, watch this video. ‘Special delivery’ shows lots of different young birds being fed by their parents. (Click the arrows on the right end of the play bar right to make it full screen.)
Encourage your children to think about the different birds they see and talk about:
- What are the birds like and where have they nested?
- Is there anything that is surprising?
- How are the young birds different from their parents?
- What are the young birds being fed?
Both male and female bird parents will bring back food for the young birds to eat. You'll see in the video that they take this food from their parent’s beaks. We know that mammals are the only animal group that produces milk for young, but some birds such as the pigeon and male emperor penguin produce a milk-like secretion that gives their chicks lots of nutrients in order to grow strong.
Now take a look outside! What birds can you see and what are they feeding on? Which birds feed on the ground and which prefer to feed in trees or on bushes?
Our birds appreciate a little help in the winter months. Why not try to feed some birds? You don’t need to buy special bird food – a soft apple hung on a string, soaked raisins or a little grated cheese is fine, just avoid anything salty.
First, take a close-up look: 'Strange stripes’ is a ‘Zoom In Zoom Out’ activity that helps you look really closely and wonder what you can see.
Look at the first picture for clues and wonder what it might be; any idea is fine if children can say why as there isn’t always just one right answer in science. Use the magnifying glass icon to zoom out and reveal more clues; talk about what you see each time.
Feathers are waterproof. Look out for birds taking a bath, or shaking off rain drops and see how water beads on their feathers.
First, take a look at these images: Blackbird vartiation
All of these birds are blackbirds. In this family of blackbirds, we can see that all three of the offspring have similar features such as a beak, eyes, wings and feathers, but they don’t look exactly like their parents. They may be bigger, smaller, have slightly different coloured beaks or in this case one of them appears totally white because it lacks a pigment called melanin. Different colourings and markings enable animals and birds to hide from predators but other birds choose colours to make themselves stand out.
Hands-on activity: Look at birds that you can see outside through a window or in the garden, or in a park when you’re out for a walk. Which have colours and markings that enable them to blend in with their surroundings? Which stand out? Can you try to identify some of the birds you see? You could take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
That's all for this week!
We hope your little scientists have enjoyed exploring birds this week. We'd love to know how you got on.
You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook or email us if you have any feedback on this collection.
Please note that adults should supervise practical activities, make sure that children use appropriate materials and tools, and wash hands after handling any food items.
Take it further:
- Take part in the RSPB's Big Schools' Birdwatch and Big Garden Watch in January or February each year: find out more on our dedicated blog post here.
- Visit STEM Learning, to explore their support for parents and carers with home learning.
- Browse our other collections
Are you a primary school teacher who has yet to sign up to Explorify?
If you are a teacher who hasn't discovered Explorify before, you can sign up and explore the whole website with over 400 free activities. (It's free, as it's funded by charitable foundation Wellcome Trust. Our mission is to help you enhance your science teaching and get your pupils thinking like scientists!) We provide background science, to help you field questions from your pupils and ideas to take our curriculum-linked activities further. Something to get your teeth into for when you're back in the classroom!
Image, video, and music credits:
Long Tailed Tit in nest by Coulanges via Shutterstock SL; Special delivery: Video credits: BBC Natural History via Getty Images RR; Mark Steven Shepherd via Getty Images RR; John Downer Productions via Getty Images RR; John Downer Productions via Getty Images RR; Music: She Sells Sea Shells, by Robert Northcott (PRS) via AudioNetworks; Strange stripes image credit: Wellcome; Unusual blackbirds: Rita E via Pixabay CC0, Phillip Cull via Alamy, Carabito via Pixabay CC0.