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BIRDS

Observe a variety of animals from this group to determine similarities among them. You might observe local birds as they feed.

You will find that most birds live on land and can fly, have an internal skeleton, and have feathers for body covering, have one pair of legs and one pair of wings for locomotion, have bills (without teeth), and hatch from eggs with hard shells laid in nests. Birds are warm-blooded, which means they maintain a steady body temperature different from the temperature of their environment. About 8,600 species of birds have been identified.

It is not advisable to confine wild birds in the classroom; however, tame birds purchased from a pet store do quite well in a cage. The size of cage is of great importance. For two small birds such as canaries, budgies, or finches, the minimum size should be about 20 inches by 10 inches by 15 inches. For larger birds such as mynahs, the minimum size should be 25 inches by 20 inches by 15 inches.

Tame birds will eat commercially prepared bird foods, lettuce, carrots, apples, and pieces of bread. Wild birds will probably eat the same stuff. Provide fresh water daily.

Caged birds need separate containers for mixed grit and cuttlefish bone for roughage. Cuttlefish bone can be bought in a chunk and clipped to the side of the cage, near a perch. Grit can be sprinkled on the floor of the cage on the paper liner. You can cut several thicknesses of newspaper the size and shape of the cage floor, so that all you need to do to clean the cage is remove the top paper. Maintenance should be done frequently. Remove all perishable food at the end of each day.

Note: It is illegal to disturb wild birds or their nests. Further, wild birds usually have parasites and other bad stuff on their bodies. Pretend you're surgeons and wash your hands after handling wild birds, tame birds, and cage stuff.

Bird feeders are easy to build and offer many opportunities to observe and study wild birds. Stock the feeders with commercially prepared food for wild birds, various seeds, grains, apples, bread, raisins, cracked corn, oats, peanuts, sunflower seeds, or suet.

A bread pudding can be prepared by heating suet until it liquifies, stirring in raisins, unsalted peanuts, and various kinds of seed as it cools, then pouring it into paper cups or over pine cones as it thickens. The cups or cones can be suspended from tree branches to attract birds. Yum!

You can make simple feeders with almost anything. Hang pine cones, coffee cans, gourds, shallow boxes, half a coconut, or a whole coconut. magination will enable students to create other simple feeders.

Tray feeders are made by placing food on open trays by windows or on stands. Tray feeders should have upturned edges to keep the food from falling off. Water containers can be placed on tray feeders. A covered tray on a pulley clothesline makes a feeder that can be brought in for restocking.

You can make a rustic feeder by drilling holes in an old log or block of wood to contain food. Add pegs on which birds can perch. You can also tape two slotted soap dishes together, or fold wire mesh into a box shape, and fill the interior with suet.

Of course, you want to put your feeder by a window where you can be comfortable watching the birds. Do not put your feeder directly above the patio, garden chairs, or barbecue; otherwise, you might learn the true meaning of the phrase, "bird droppings." It is also important that you do not put your feeder in a place where cats have easy access to them.

Keep records of the number and types of birds feeding each day and/or the time of day each type feeds. Also keep longitudinal records to see which kinds of birds are attracted to the feeders during different seasons of the year.

Experiment by varying the food to see which kinds of birds are attracted to particular types of food. For example, seed-eating birds such as sparrows are attracted to chicken feed, weed seeds, and bread crumbs; fruit-eating birds such as robins and cedar waxwings are attracted to berries and
various fruits; insect-eating birds are attracted to suet, nuts, peanut butter, and sunflower seeds.

Also experiment by coloring the food used to see if birds show a preference for certain colors.

Note: If you start a feeder in the fall, continue through the winter because the birds will come to depend upon it. It has been said that some birds that usually migrate in winter will stick around, expecting to be fed for the whole season. They carry little signs that say, "Will be cute for food."

 

 
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