Wings Over Arkansas, Grades 4 - 12 (FBCEC)

Summary:

Participants will use field guides, binoculars and other resources to learn how to identify birds. They will practice identification by ear as well. They will also be introduced to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Wings Over Arkansas program.

Grade Level:

4 - 12

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Fred Berry Conservation Education Center, Yellville, AR

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 870-449-3484

Duration:

45 minutes - 3 hours

Suggested Number of Participants:

Up to 24

Special Conditions:

Outdoor area is needed for practice. Active bird feeders are useful.

Objectives:

  • Correctly use binoculars.
  • Practice using a field guide.
  • Recognize major taxonomic groups of birds.
  • Practice bird identification in the field by analyzing field markings, physical characteristics and sounds

Key Terms*:

Diversity

Field guide

Field marks

Taxonomic

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

“A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold

Bird cutouts

Bird field guides

Bird mounts or study skins

Bird song recordings

Great Possessions bird cards

Large poster or collage with different birds

Background:

Anyone who has watched the activity at a birdfeeder or birds of prey soar has participated in birding. Those who often take notice at an early age develop a lifelong interest. Birds are diverse and beautiful, and while watching them can sometimes be quite challenging, many species are easy to view. Learning a few viewing and identification skills can enrich the experience.

Procedure:

  1. Great Possessions – An Awakening (Leopold Education Project)
    • Option 1
      • Show the participants a large picture with many birds. Give them a few minutes to find as many different birds as they can. Let them come up and point out what they found. Can they name any of these birds?
      • Play a locally taped recording of bird songs. Ask how many birds they hear. Can they identify some of the birds by their song or call?
    • Option 2
      • Take them outside, close their eyes and listen. Ask how many different birds they hear. Instruct them to open their eyes and see if they can spot birds while standing very still for a few minutes. They may take notes of what they see and hear. If time allows, take participants on a short walk to look for animal tracks.
  2. Discuss the diversity of bird species in Arkansas and on the Crooked Creek property.
  3. Use field guides along with stuffed birds, study skins or pictures to review field markings (wing bars, lores, etc.).
  4. Discuss how field markings, size, shape and flight patterns can help identify a bird. Why is shape very important in identifying birds? Show them two different bird silhouettes of similar size and ask them what birds they are.
  5. Show them a few of the bird cutouts and ask them to describe characteristics used to identify the birds.
  6. Go over the basic organization of field guides and let them spend a few minutes looking through one. Most field guides are organized according to order and family. Describe a bird, or hold up a picture or a cutout, and see how quickly they can find the correct bird in the field guide. Repeat a few times.
  7. Play some examples of bird songs or calls they might hear around the center. Let them take turns identifying the birds they hear. Explain that a birder will hear a bird before they see one. The calls are clues as to where to look for the bird and what kind it is.
  8. Pass out binoculars and show how to use them.
  9. Pass out the Arkansas birds checklists and the Wings Over Arkansas applications. Explain the program.
  10. Take participants outdoors to practice with their binoculars. Bird cut-outs previously placed outdoors may be used for this purpose.
  11. Take the binoculars and field guides and go on a bird walk. Have participants record what they see and hear. They can share what they observed with the class. They could even sketch a bird they saw.

Modifications:

Back from the Argentine and 65290 tasks cards from the Leopold Education Project.

Review:

  • Describe how to focus binoculars.
  • List at least four types of information field guides give for each species.
  • Explain why sound is as important as sight when birding.
  • Describe the basic field markings of an eastern bluebird

Resources:

  • Alderfer, Jonathan (2006). Complete Birds of North America, National Geographic, 2006.
  • Birds. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, http://www.agfc.com/wildlife-conservation/birds.aspx.
  • Peterson, Roger Tory (1980). Birds, Peterson First Guides, Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Stokes, Donald and Lillian (1996). Field Guide to Birds, Little, Brown and Company.
  • Wings Over Arkansas, Birding Certificate Program, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Glossary:

Diversity – in biology, the number of species in a given area

Field Guide – an illustrated manual sized for carrying which identifies natural objects, flora and fauna

Field marks – distinguishing marks or coloration on a bird

Taxonomic – practice of classifying living organisms