Monday, August 11, 2008

Bird Songs, Facts, Books, & Activities

Birds Action Song

The first verse remains the same: children walking around in a circle holding hands singing "Here we go round the Mulberry Bush".

2nd verse:
This is the way we scratch for worms.
(children move their feet in a scratching motion)
3rd verse:
This is the way we peck our food.
(children peck)
4th verse:
This is the way we sit on our eggs.
(children squat down and wiggle)
5th verse:
This is the way we flap our wings.
(bend arms at elbows, put thumbs under armpits, and flap)
6th verse:
This is the way we fly away.
(children can "fly" anywhere they want within a set boundary, but return to circle at end of verse)


When we observe the regal display of color on a male peacock, with his feathery fan-like tail spread out, his beauty fascinates us. Like thousands of other species of birds, this stunning specimen is staking claim to his territory and trying to attract a mate. His shimmering green and blue plumage shows other birds that he is a strong and healthy male peacock ready to defend his territory.

Using visual and auditory cues, each bird species has evolved a spacing method to let other birds know where his territory boundaries end. His vivid color sends a message of dominance and ownership. This is extremely important to his survival. When birds are too densely populated in a particular area, they may starve. If they are too widely spread out, they might never find each other to mate and reproduce. The red shoulder patch on red-winged blackbirds provides an excellent example. The patch is coverable and is shown to males and females of the same species but never to predators. Males who had their patch experimentally covered tended to lose their territories more often than did uncovered birds. Similar results have been shown in other species such as scarlet-tufted malachite sunbirds, confirming that the brilliant badges function primarily in male-male competition over territories.

In most species the female is a “plain Jane” with brown or gray markings, while the male is dressed for success like a “dapper Dan.” The reason for this difference is job related. The female needs to be camouflaged in the nest to feed and nurture her young. The male needs to stand out in a crowd to attract a female and win her love. His intense and dazzling plumage shows her that he will contribute strong, healthy genes to their offspring. In fact, during mating season, some males will exhibit breeding plumage, which is more lustrous and vivid than at other times during the year. House finches are monogamous and males exhibit orange or red in their crowns and elsewhere in their plumage. The extent and brightness of the color in individuals is directly related to carotenoid pigments that are picked up from high quality seed. Extensive field studies have shown that artificially brightened males were much preferred by females, and that naturally brighter males were better at providing food to the female and her chicks.

Activity for home or school:

For most birds, nest-building supplies consist of whatever nature has lying around — wood, grass, twigs, feathers, and fur. You can provide the birds in your neighborhood with easy-to-obtain nest fodder by stuffng a mesh onion bag with materials such as pet fur, colorful strands of cloth, bits of stuffing, hay, colorful yarn cut into short lengths, hair from your brush, or feathers from an old down pillow. (Avoid anything synthetic or sharp.) Snip a few large holes in the sack so birds can poke around, then hang it in a tree, ideally near a feeder so it will get noticed.

In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for birds visiting the sack, then watch what trees they return to — from the right viewpoint, you might even get to see your building materials being incorporated into the birds' nests.

Books for the classroom:

"The Backyard Bird Watching For Kids" by George H. Harrison

This book provides a fascinating opportunity for children to learn how to attract birds to their own backyards. And there's no better teacher than "Mr. Backyard Bird Watcher" himself, expert birder and author George H. Harrison. This book will kindle in readers a healthy, enduring interest in birds and other wild animals.
72 pages. For kids 5-12

"Are You My Mother?" by P.D Eastman

Soft and cuddly as a stuffed animal or a favorite quilt, this padded-cloth book, will delight a small child and the person who reads it out loud. Suitable for infants and children up to about five years old.

A baby bird falls out of the nest and explores the surroundings in search of its mother. This book goes beyond being merely illustrated--it's a real experience. A child can hold the small cloth baby bird and at the end tuck it under the found mother's wing. Highly recommended for a small child in your life.

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