Web Content Display Web Content Display

Birds at My Window Activity

The birds that live in or visit the trees, shrubs and flowers that grow in your yard are not only nice to look at and fun to have around; they each have their own way of going about their business. You have probably been too busy to notice, but today is the day you can start to find out.

Science, English Language Arts, History, Research

Elementary, Middle and High School

30 to 90 minutes

Notebook or paper for jotting notes and making sketches
Pencil, phone for taking photos (not required), computer for looking up information

To observe, describe, catalog, and learn about the birds who live or visit in your yard or neighborhood.

Post a picture of your work to social media with the hashtag #fdractivities

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Historic Context:

Franklin Roosevelt loved birds. As a boy he spent hours in the woods and fields around his home observing how they flew, what they ate, where they nested and how they just generally went about their lives. He collected dozens of birds and had them stuffed (that’s how it was done in those days…) so he could examine their physical characteristics up close and at length. He was so good at collecting information that his notes still stand as the best description of the birds of Dutchess County, New York, for the time in which he lived. 

During his presidency (1933-1945) FDR was very busy tending to the needs of the country and much of the world, but he still found time for an occasional trip into the woods to spot his old feathered friends. 

Activity Steps/Procedures:

  1. Find a notebook or some paper and a pencil for taking notes.
  2. Go quietly and slowly into your yard and observe the birds that live in, or visit the trees, shrubs and flowers in your yard. You may need to be patient in observing them because they are observing you too and are not used to having you poking around in their neighborhood.
  3. Draw a rough map of your yard showing the location of your house and the trees, shrubs and flowers and begin to take note of the birds you find there.
  4. For each bird, make a careful study and begin to jot down notes and sketches about each one and the dates and time you are making your observations.
    1. How big is the bird? 
    2. What color is it?
    3. What shape is it? 
    4. How does it move?
    5. What are its habits?
    6. What does it like to eat?
    7. What sounds does it make?
    8. What other interesting traits or characteristics does it have?
    9. If you have a phone or camera, you may want to snap some pictures.
  5. Repeat this process for the other birds you observe in your yard.
  6. Using the information you collected in your field operations, search the internet to locate information about the birds.
    1. Can you find its common and scientific names? 
    2. Is it native to your area or has it moved in from somewhere else?
    3. How long is its life span?
    4. Other than being ornamental, does this bird provide any valuable services?
    5. What other information can you find?
  7. Now that you are an expert on the birds in your yard, why not arrange a tour so you can share the information with the rest of your family?

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why do you suppose observing and studying birds was so important to FDR?
  2. What purpose do the birds in your yard serve?
  3. Why do you suppose these birds picked your yard to make their home?
  4. What means and measures do these birds use to protect themselves from weather and predators? 
  5. What do their eggs look like, plain, colored, speckled? What size are they?

A Step Beyond:

  1. Research the birds that live in your region of the country.
  2. How many of them are living or visiting right in your yard?
  3. Do all of these birds migrate, or do some stay around all year?
  4. What can you do to make your yard even more appealing to birds?
  5. Research FDR and birds…
    1. How big was his collection?
    2. What kinds of birds does his collection contain?
    3. What actions did FDR take as governor or president to protect or help birds?
    4. What other hobbies did FDR enjoy?