According to Statistics Canada, a quarter of all households across the country have a bird feeder. This 25%, current as of 2013, is probably considerably larger in 2020 given the surge in interest of backyard birding during the pandemic.
Bird watching is fascinating and wonderful, so it's not surprising that more people are discovering how enjoyable it is to see birds up close.
As the fall months turn from cool to cold, the nightly frosts give way to snowy dustings and all the leaves have left the trees, our bird feeder comes alive again. Clouds of chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers swoop back and forth between feeder and nearby trees in a constant rhythm of many wings and beaks.
In Canada there are many birds that reliably visit feeders that make for exciting spectating during fall and winter. With my children being homeschooled this pandemic year, I decided to expand our usual bird-watching and feeders to collect some statistics.
Bird counting is an important way researchers, environmental organizations and ornithologists learn about how different bird species are faring and are usually conducted at specific times during the year.
Similar to this concept, I devised a set of bird statistics tally sheets that can be used with your own back yard bird feeder.
Why count birds?
- Observing nature around you is a fundamentally great thing to do. By paying close attention to the comings and goings of birds at your feeder much can be noticed and appreciated about their behaviour and characteristics.
- Songbirds have been in a steady decline for the past few decades. This is largely due to loss of habitat, deforestation and use of pesticides on agricultural crops.
Any ways we can improve their chances and habitats is important.
- As mentioned before, counting birds is critical to understanding the population health of birds, and gathering these numbers relies on the significant participation of citizen scientists (like you!) all over the world.
- It's a fun and interesting way to learn some math! In particular data collection and statistics. These tally sheets focus on the number of times any given bird visits a feeder, rather than the number of birds themselves. This is because, especially for children, it can be tricky to count individual flighty birds often going in several directions at once.
How to use the bird statistics tally sheets:
Each sheet encourages choosing two different times to count each bird as it comes to the feeder,
keeping track of the daily weather to see how it affects the number of birds,
and questions to answer with the tally results at the end of 7 days.
The number of days and times are easily customizable and can be lengthened or shortened to suit attention spans and interests.
And of course each page has a range map showing the winter (year round) extent of each bird (to be coloured in :) ). Provinces are lightly labelled and provincial capital dots are included to provide context.
To count multiple birds in one sitting, a master tally page is included accommodating up to 10 birds. If your feeder has more than ten species, simply print out extra tally sheets.
The common Canadian winter birds featured in the Bird Feeder Statistics sheets are:
- black capped chickadee
- white breasted nuthatch
- red breasted nuthatch
- blue jay
- downy woodpecker
- northern cardinal
- (with more birds to be added soon!)
Subjects the bird statistics sheets can be used for:
MATH - students learn how to collect data, how to master tallies, use addition, logic, and basic statistics techniques.
SCIENCE - use them to research the birds you see coming to the feeder. Get field guides out of the library or the Cornell Ornithology - All About Birds database to learn about the birds in your area. Take a pair of binoculars outside or watch from the window as the birds come and go from the feeder to see all their details.
Compare males and females of a species.
Use your tally sheets to document the numbers of birds in your yard for an actual bird count and submit your findings to The Great Backyard Bird Count.
GEOGRAPHY - use the maps to compare the ranges of the different birds. What are the patterns you notice? Where are the most birds located across the country? How might the geography affect the range of birds?
Label the provincial capitals, oceans and international countries on the maps.
ART - colour the birds on each sheet in carefully, paying attention to their markings.
Sketch the birds. Use coloured pencils or watercolours to show the bird's markings as accurately as you can - reference pictures and fields guides to help you.