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Birds.

There are birds that can run and birds that can swim. Some birds sing and some even waddle, ... but not all birds can fly! Ostriches run really fast, and penguins are super swimmers, but neither of them can fly. They are flightless birds. No matter how hard or how fast they flap, their wings are not able to lift up their body weight.

Feather Facts

Feathers are what make birds different from all other animals. All birds, whether big or small, have feathers! Flying birds have specialized flight feathers on their wings and tails. These feathers also help steer and brake. Birds can save energy by holding their wings out stiffly as they fly. This helps them glide smoothly through the air, until they need to flap again. Air moving over their wings provides "lift" for their bodies. Blow over the top of a small piece of paper to see it "lift" up like a bird's wing.

Flight feathers are very smooth to provide better air flow. Feathers also have barbules (little hooks) that fit together almost like a zipper to keep the feather flat and smooth. There are many different kinds of feathers. Some are soft and fluffy, like the down feathers found in winter jackets and in pillows. Down feathers help trap the air to keep a bird's body warm.

Protecting Young Birds

Birds have many special ways to protect their young. Eggs laid in hidden nests are often white to help the parents find them in the dark. Eggs laid in open fields or on rocky ledges might have speckles on them to help blend in with their surroundings. Camouflage of this type helps hide the eggs from predators who might eat them. Female birds usually do not have bright, colorful feathers like males. Dull-colored feathers draw less attention, while the mother is protecting her young in the nest.

Birds can be very helpful. They eat insects that can harm crops. They also eat mice and rats, and the seeds of weeds. There are more than 9000 different kinds of birds in the world. It's fun and challenging to be a birdwatcher. See how many different birds you can find!

Background

Billions of Birds

There are about 9000 different species of birds in the world, and it's been estimated that there are more than 100 billion individual birds. Relying on counts of breeding birds, it appears that certain types of birds are adapting well to new environmental circumstances. City pigeons are just one example! Many other species, though, are endangered. Habitat destruction and exposure to toxins in the environment are some of the greatest risks to birds. Exotic birds have been captured and sold as pets, leaving insufficient numbers to reproduce in the wild. Programs to remove certain pesticides, which destroyed the egg shells of bald eagles and brown pelicans have shown some success, and these species are staging a come back. The surveying of bird populations on a regular basis, by both professional ornithologists and birdwatching hobbyists, has helped identify many endangered birds. This has allowed efforts to be undertaken to help protect these birds from extinction.

Bird "field guides" are designed to help identify which characteristics are similar and distinct among different birds. Characteristics that all birds share include: feathers, two wings, two legs, beaks, and the ability to lay eggs. Examining individual characteristics can tell us a lot about how a bird lives. If we examine beaks, for example, we can learn much about a bird's eating habits. Short strong beaks, like those of a parrot or finch, help crack open hard seeds. Sharp hooked beaks help birds, like eagles and hawks, eat other animals. A hummingbird's long slim beak is like a straw that draws nectar from flowers, while long sharp beaks, like the blue heron's, aid in spearing fish.

By investigating birds' feet and toes, we can find out much about their habits. While most birds have four toes, birds that perch on tree limbs, like finches and warblers, have three toes in front and one toe in back. Climbing birds, such as woodpeckers, have two toes in front and two in back. Water birds, like ducks and penguins, have webs between their toes to help them swim, instead of claws.

Feather Facts

What is unique to all birds is their feathers. Birds have three types of feathers. Flight feathers on wings and tails, as their name indicates, help birds fly. They aid in steering and braking by controlling air flow. Down feathers help keep a bird's body insulated. These are the same type of fluffy feathers used in bed covers and jackets that keep us warm by trapping insulating layers of air. Body or contour feathers cover down feathers to provide a smooth and waterproof surface. These feathers also show the characteristic markings of a bird's family. Flight and contour feathers have tiny hooks called barbules that hold the feather together. If the spines of a feather come apart, a bird can easily zip them back together with its beak, while it is preening (cleaning and oiling) its feathers. Though it varies, some birds have thousands of feathers.

Flying Lessons

Not all birds can fly! Flying birds take off by flapping their wings, which requires a great deal of muscle strength. Birds have very well developed breast muscles, because it takes so much energy to pull their wings down. Birds have hollow bones filled with air that help to reduce their flying weight. Once up and moving, birds can save energy by gliding on rising hot air currents and by the "lift" provided by air rushing over their wings. The curve of the wings allows the air going over the top of them to move faster. This is what provides "lift" to the wing and is the same principle of flight shared by aircraft.

New Discoveries about "Old Birds"

We know that some relatives of dinosaurs flew, but the first true bird was the Archaeopteryx (ar ke op' ter iks) which lived about 150 million years ago. Fossils of this crow-sized bird have been found in limestone in Bavaria. It had teeth, a long tail, and looked much like a reptile. The fossil also clearly had an imprint of feathers and a tail. A new fossil recently discovered in Argentina is believed to be the "missing link" supporting the scientific theory that birds descended from dinosaurs. The pelvis of this flightless creature resembled both a dinosaur and bird, but it had definite bird-like shoulders. It probably ran around upright on 2 legs and would have measured about 4 feet tall and 7 1/2 feet long. Another recent discovery, made in Spain, was of the oldest fossilized skeleton of a baby bird. It lived 135 million years ago and was less than 5 inches long. Its skull resembled a dinosaur, but it had a well developed wing structure. It also had a beak full of sharp teeth!

Initiating Activities

1. Build a large class bird's nest out of found objects (e.g., twigs, leaves, straw, yam, moss, long grasses, etc.). Eagle's nests can easily reach sizes averaging about 9 feet wide to 13 feet tall. Eagles use the same nest year after year. Their nests keep growing in size, as they keep adding to them.

2. Bring in samples of different feathers for your students to touch and examine. (Feathers are available in some craft stores, in pillows, etc. Also try contacting your local nature centers.)

Level Pre-A

Main Concepts: Birds come in many sizes and shapes. Not all birds can fly, but they all have feathers.

Picture Activity

Ask your students about the birds they see in the three pictures. Where are each of these birds living? How are these birds the same and different? Explain that all birds have feathers, 2 legs, 2 wings, a beak, and they all lay eggs. Birds live in many different places (habitats). Pigeons live in cities, penguins in icy areas, and ostriches on open plains. Ask if they think if all of these birds can fly. Only the pigeon can fly. The penguin and ostrich can not.

Vocabulary

Have your students point to each of the parts in the boxes as you read them. The bird pictured is the American robin. Tell your students that the robin used to live mainly in forests, but now lives in cities and suburbs. It is noted for its red breast and blue eggs. It has four toes that wrap around a branch to help it perch. Since, it lives mainly on earthworms, it flies (migrates) south when the ground freezes in winter and it can't find any worms.

Storytelling

Read what WHY-FLY is saying. Have your students repeat the 4 words out loud several times. Discuss how the baby birds hatch from eggs. (Note: Please reassure them that the eggs they get in the supermarket do not contain baby birds.) Many birds, but not all, lay eggs in nests. Birds build nests in various styles (some shaped like woven bowls or bags) and lay eggs in different places (tree limbs or holes, building ledges, rocky ledges, muddy river banks, etc.). See TN Level A - WRITING FOR SCIENCE for additional activities.

Weekly Problem

Answers: 4 birds have webbed feet. Webbed feet work like paddles and help the birds swim and dive. Ducks and many other waterfowl have webbed feet. (The other 2 have clawed feet, which help them grip and catch food.) There are 6 birds in all.

Home Base

This activity can be done at home or in class. Point out that there are 2 different kinds of bird feeders shown. Explain that different birds prefer different shaped feeders and different types of food. For the pine cone feeder, thickly spread peanut butter over the cone and roll it in wild birdseed. For the milk carton feeder, tell them to make sure their carton is thoroughly washed first. Then cut out an opening midway around and fill it with birdseed (or other food). Hang the feeders with string from a tree or other tall object. Use a bird identification guide to see who comes to visit.

Weekly Lab

You need: scissors, tape, paper clips. Have your students cut out their birds and fold them down the middle -- with the wings pointed down. Then have them fold the wings and tail flaps up. Next tape together the areas marked by colored dots. Add 2 paper clips to the beak, and have them write their names on the lines provided on their birds' wings (so they can tell them apart). Now they are ready to launch their gliders, in an open area outside, or in a gym. Have them hold their bird gliders on the bottom of the wings.

Level A

Main Concepts and Picture Activity: See TN Level Pre-A.

Vocabulary

Answers: 1) C 2) D 3) A 4) B 5) E. See Level Pre-A -- VOCABULARY for more on the American robin.

Weekly Problem

First have them color in the small crayons to create a "color key." This beautiful bird is a scarlet macaw which lives in a Peruvian rain forest. There are more than 300 different kinds of parrots, and the scarlet macaw is just one of them. Most parrots are endangered, because they are captured for their beautiful feathers and their (homes) habitats are being destroyed. Have them point to the parrot's beak. Their beaks are so strong that parrots use them to help climb trees.

Writing for Science

See TN Level Pre-A - STORYTELLING. As an extension, make bird-shaped books, and have them write in information they find out about birds. Discuss their favorite birds and the different types of birds they know. Ask how many have birds as pets. Ask them what birds they can think of that are on TV or in cartoons (e.g., Big Bird, Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, etc.). Tell them to include the color of their favorite bird, if it's big or little, and why it is their favorite bird in their stories.

Home Base and Weekly Lab

See TN Level Pre-A -- HOME BASE and WEEKLY LAB. In addition, have them try flying their bird gliders with and without paper clips. The weight of the paper clips generally ensures a longer, smoother flight.

Level B

Main Concepts: Not all birds can fly, but they all have feathers and lay eggs. There are many different kinds of birds with many unique characteristics. Ask them about the birds they see in the pictures. Where ate these birds living ? How are these birds the same and different ? Explain that bird eggs come in different colors. Have them color in these robin eggs a pale blue.

Vocabulary

Answers: auk cuckoo dove eagle finch hawk loon magpie owl. Bird names are often used for sports teams. In football, there are the Phoenix Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, and Atlanta Falcons. In baseball, there are the Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Baltimore Orioles. In hockey, there are the Detroit Redwings, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, etc.

Weekly Lab

Tell them to fold their birds down the middle -- with the wings pointed down. Remind them to write their names on their birds, so they can tell them apart. Then in an open space outside, or in a gym, have them launch their gliders. They will find the weight of the paper clip generally ensures a longer, smoother flight. Have them hold their bird gliders on the bottom of the wings. Have them design their own bird gliders and compare flights.

Weekly Problem

After they have filled in the bar graph, use a meter stick to have your students actually visualize the comparative sizes of these birds. If you prefer using inches, the screech owl is about 8 inches, the roadrunner is 24 inches, the spoonbill is 32 inches, and the toucan is 20 inches. For students unfamiliar with metric measurement, explain that it is another way of measuring, like using feet and inches. It is used all over the world. (2.5 cm is approximately 1 inch.)

Writing for Science

Discuss the great distances many birds travel when they migrate thousands of miles south to avoid the ice and snow of winter. Many North American birds spend the winter in the rain forests of South America, which are slowly dwindling in size. Ask them to imagine how hard it must be for birds to find food when the ground is covered with ice and snow. Birds navigate using the position of the Sun and stars and smells in the air like salt water. Birds even have a small amount of magnetite (an iron ore) in their brains, which acts as a compass to help orient them to North. The longest migration is made by the Arctic Terns who fly a 22,000 mile round-trip, when they migrate each year from the North Pole to the South Pole.

Challenge

Answers: 1) pelican 2) scissor-tailed flycatcher 3) woodpecker 4) the male peacock has the showy tail, while the peahen is drabber in color. Have your students cut out any 16 bird squares, mix them up, and glue them onto the grid in random order. Play regular Bingo and also variations, as 4 corners, a specific line across or down, a frame, etc. If you wish to have prizes, small packages of edible sunflower seeds (like birds eat) or bird stickers would be good choices. Cut-up pieces of colored paper (or sunflower seeds) can be used as game markers. For individual play or with partners: photocopy this page, then glue both sheets onto construction paper. Cut-out the pieces, turn them face down, and use them to play a memory matching game like "Concentration."

Level C

Main Concepts: See TN Level B.

Vocabulary

Answers: auk cuckoo eagle hawk kiwi loon magpie oriole owl. Review how to alphabetize when two words start with the same letter. Bird names are often used for sports teams. In football, there are the Phoenix Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, and Atlanta Falcons. In baseball, there are the Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Baltimore Orioles. In hockey, there are the Detroit Redwings, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, etc.

Weekly Lab

See TN Level B -- WEEKLY LAB. In addition, you can have competitions between partners or have them try to beat their own best flights. They can use meter sticks and/or long pieces of string or yarn to measure flight distances.

Weekly Problem

After they have filled in the bar graph, use a meter stick to have your students actually visualize the comparative sizes of these birds. If you prefer using inches, the screech owl is about 8 inches, the roadrunner is 24 inches, the spoonbill is 32 inches, and the toucan is 20 inches. For students unfamiliar with metric measurement, explain that it is another way of measuring, like using feet and inches. It is used all over the world. (2.5 cm is approximately 1 inch.) As an additional activity, you can have your students find the average length of some other birds and graph them also. Here are the lengths of some more birds to get them started - the blue-footed booby (86 cm), the flamingo (1 m or 100 cm), the parrot (38 cm), the robin (25 cm).

Writing for Science and Challenge

See TN Level B -- WRITING FOR SCIENCE and CHALLENGE. In addition, explain that "bird flyways" are very much like bird highways that birds use year after year when they migrate.

Level D

Main Concepts: Feathers are unique to birds. Air movement over their wings provides "lift" to flying birds. Birds have a variety of adaptations to help ensure their survival.

Vocabulary

Answers: From top to bottom: Kentucky, STATES, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois. Have them find out more about their own state bird. Bonus: Birds are often used for sports teams. In football, there are the Phoenix Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, and Atlanta Falcons. In baseball, there are the Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Baltimore Orioles. In hockey, there are the Detroit Redwings, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, etc.

Weekly Lab

Tell them to fold their birds down the middle - with the wings pointed down. Remind them to write their names on their birds, so they can tell them apart. Then in an open space outside, or in a gym, have them launch their gliders. They will find the weight of the paper clip generally ensures a longer, smoother flight. Have them hold their bird gliders on the bottom of the wings. Also, have them design their own bird gliders varying the body, wing, and tail designs to see if they can make one that flies a longer distance. Birds save energy by catching rising warm air currents, so they can glide without flapping. Also flying in V-formations on long migrations helps cut air resistance.

Weekly Problem

There are a total of 64 birds. After counting, they can see how difficult it would be to count a large flock, especially one that is moving. For the Bonus, you will need to get your school's total enrollment.

Writing for Science

Encourage them to use points of reference in their stories (e.g., turning left and traveling 2 blocks, turning right at the stoplight, etc.). Bird migration is triggered when daylight hours grow shorter and cooler temperatures set in. Discuss the great distances many birds travel when they migrate thousands of miles south to avoid the ice and snow of winter. Many North American birds spend the winter in the rain forests of South America, which are slowly dwindling in size. Ask them to imagine how hard it must be for birds to find food when the ground is covered with ice and snow. Birds navigate using the position of the Sun and stars and smells in the air like salt water. Birds even have a small amount of magnetite (an iron ore) in their brains, which acts as a compass to help orient them to North. Flyways are like highways for birds in the sky. Birds need to stop during their long travels to rest and gather food. These areas need to be protected and kept safe. When their usual stopover sites become developed or destroyed, many birds can not adapt and are unable to find new places for food and water.

Challenge

Answers: 1) pelican 2) scissor-tailed flycatcher 3) woodpecker 4) the male peacock has the showy tail, while the peahen is drabber in color 5) flamingo -- with its backward bending knees. Have your students cut out any 16 bird squares, mix them up, and glue them onto the grid in random order. Play regular Bingo and also variations, as 4 corners, a specific line across or vertically, a frame, etc. If you wish to have prizes, small packages of edible sunflower seeds (like birds eat) or bird stickers would be good choices. Cut-up pieces of colored paper (or sunflower seeds) can be used as game markers. For individual play or with partners: photocopy this page, then glue both sheets onto construction paper. Cut-out the pieces, turn them face down, and use them to play a memory matching game like "Concentration."

Level E

Main Concepts: Feathers are unique to birds, with different types of feathers having different types of functions. Air movement over their wings provides "lift" to flying birds. Birds have a variety of adaptations to help ensure their survival.

Vocabulary

Answers: From top to bottom: Kentucky, STATES, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois. Have them find out more about their own state bird. Bonus: Birds are often used for sports teams. In football, there are the Phoenix Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, and Atlanta Falcons. In baseball, there are the Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Baltimore Orioles. In hockey, there are the Detroit Redwings, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, etc.

Weekly Lab

Tell them to fold their birds down the middle - with the wings pointed down. Remind them to write their names on their birds, so they can tell them apart. Then in an open space outside, or in a gym, have them launch their gliders. They will find the weight of the paper clip generally ensures a longer, smoother flight. Birds save energy by catching rising warm air currents, so they can glide without flapping. Also flying in V-formations on long migrations helps cut air resistance. Have them make several trials with and without the paper clip to estimate an average flight distance.

Weekly Problem

There are a total of 64 birds. After counting, they can see how difficult it would be to count a large flock, especially one that is moving. For the Bonus, you will need to get your school's total enrollment. Have them try other estimating activities that can be verified, as estimating the number of steps to the office, or doors in the buildings, etc.

Writing for Science

See TN Level D - WRITING FOR SCIENCE.

Challenge

Bring in bird field guides and other birding books to help your students view a wide variety of birds, their characteristics, and their habitats (or have them do further research outside the class). Tell them to include parts from each of the 3 boxes and use the questions in the small boxes. Remind them that they will need to invent a name for their bird species. The characteristics of different body parts can help tell us about a bird's habits. For example, the strong triangular beak of a finch is needed for cracking the hard seeds it eats. The sharp hook of a parrot's beak allows it to tear fruit apart while the rest crushes seeds and helps it to climb trees. A duck's webbed feet is used for swimming, while the clawed foot of an eagle helps it to grab its prey. Tell them they can design a realistic bird or an imaginative one.

Puzzle

Answers: a) Road Runner b) Woody Woodpecker c) Donald Duck d) Tweety Bird e) Daffy Duck.

Level F

Main Concepts: Feathers, which are unique to birds, have specific functions. Air movement over wings provides "lift." Birds have many adaptations to help ensure survival, including the instinct to migrate.

Weekly Lab

For Lab A - See TN Level E - WEEKLY LAB. For Lab B - Be sure to use a needle made of a metal that will magnetize (do not use plastic or aluminum). The stroking aligns all of the metallic atoms in one direction, so they will point North. The needle will not turn when the bowl is rotated, but will continue to point on a North-South axis. Have them check their magnets' direction with a conventional compass. If a bar magnet is put near the bowl, its pull will be stronger (because of its closeness) than the pull of North Pole, and the needle will point to it instead. It is important to note that dropping or knocking the needle after it has been magnetized will cause the atoms to fall out of alignment, and they will no longer point North. (Many supermarkets will provide styrofoam trays - like the ones used for fruit and vegetables - if they know it will be used for a school project.)

Weekly Problem

There are a total of 64 birds. After counting, they can see how difficult it would be to count a large flock, especially one that is moving. For the estimating activity counting students, you will need to get your school's total enrollment. Have them try other estimating activities that can be verified, as estimating the number of steps to the office, or doors in the buildings, etc. Bonus: 160 feet deep. As an extension ask, "If an average ceiling is 8 ft. tall, how many rooms would your answer equal?" (20 rooms) You can also have them convert this to metric measurement (about 48.5 meters). 1 meter is approximately 3.3 feet.

Writing for Science and Challenge

See TN Level E - WRITING FOR SCIENCE and CHALLENGE.

Puzzle

Answers: From top to bottom: Kentucky, STATES, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois. Have them find out more about their own state bird. Bonus: Birds are often used for sports teams. In football, there are the Phoenix Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, and Atlanta Falcons. In baseball, there are the Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Baltimore Orioles. In hockey, there are the Detroit Redwings, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, etc. The mockingbird is the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.

Thinking Beyond

1. Examine feathers (available in craft stores, in pillows, at nature centers) under a magnifying glass or microscope. Note the hollow shafts, which help keep birds lightweight. The hollow shafts are also why feathers were used as pens in Colonial times.

2. Find out about the myth of Icarus, who tried to escape from the island of Crete by flying with wings made of wax and feathers.

3. After studying different beak shapes, spread out a pile of large and small bird seed and have your students try to pick them up, first using a tweezers and then a pliers. Have them count how many large and small seeds they were able to gather with each instrument, and compare these to different beaks.

4. Have them find out about John James Audubon and the Audubon Society. (The National Audubon Society Headquarters are at 700 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-9501. Contact their Education Division to find out about current programs and materials. Also contact your local Audubon Society for information about programs in your area.)

5. Some discussion questions to ponder: Do you think birds are smart? Why or why not? Why (and what) do you think birds are singing? How do you think birds know how to build nests? When migrating, birds take turns leading their group flying. How do you think they know which bird will lead and when it's their turn?

Recommended Resources Fly over and check out these great Websites!

http://www.audubon.org/wings/index.html This is the website from the National Audubon Society.

http://www.panda.org/home.htm This site is about climate change and bird migration.

http://www.mc.hik.se/ottenby/hemisior/ottnhome.html This website connects you with a bird observatory in Sweden.

http://www.ornith.cornell.edu This website lets you participate in a bird migration study.

http://www.petersononline.com This website is from the Peterson bird field guides company.

http://www.birding.com This is the website of the American Birding Association.

* Burnie, David. Birds and I-low They Live. NY: Dorling Kindersley, 1992.

* Parsons, Alexandra. Amazing Birds. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.

* Peterson, Roger Tory. Peterson First Guides Birds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.

* Snedden, Robert. What is a Bird? San Francisco: Sierra Club Books for Children, 1993.

* Taylor, Barbara. The Bird Atlas. NY: Doffing Kindersley, 1993.

Materials Needed for Issue 3 -- Dental Health

Pre-A, A - styrofoam plates, scissors, black crayons

B - red, blue, and black crayons, hard boiled eggs, white vinegar, cups, carrots

C - same as above, plus clear nail polish, permanent marking pens, styrofoam plates, scissors

D, E, F - red, blue, and green crayons, hard boiled eggs, white vinegar, cups, carrots, clear nail polish, permanent marking pens, styrofoam plates, scissors, mirrors
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 11, 1997
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